I'll start a review of of "Step Up 2: The Streets" by saying...I generally can't stand these movies. This new set of dance movies that offer the thinnest whisp of a plot wrapped around a few big dance scenes just isn't for me. I can appreciate the athleticism and skill involved in the moves shown, but put them in a highlight video (or one of the several dance shows now popping up on TV) - for me, watching underdeveloped characters dance to try to save the rec center or win the big contest or whatever cliche plot is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
Still, I'll always give a movie a chance, and even something along the lines of "Step Up 2: The Streets" is no different. The film, which really doesn't have much of a connection at all to the first film, focuses on Andie (Briana Evigan), a dancer who focuses on going out with her dance crew instead of her studies. If she doesn't stop going out with her pals and putting on random acts of dance in public (a subway scene early on where Andie and her friends vault and spin around a subway is impressive not only for the moves, but for the fluid way that the scene is captured as the dancers fly out of the train and bounce through the station as they attempt to escape security guards.
Andie winds up at an audition at the Maryland School for the Arts, where her street moves don't go over well with the stuffy administrators. Still, she manages to make her way into the school - which doesn't sit well with her old crew, who feel as if she's abandoned them. While she's upset to get kicked out of her crew, it's not long before fellow student Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman) suggests that she grab nerdy Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and several other kids to form their own scrappy dance crew. It's no surprise that the two crews eventually make their way to "The Streets", the legendary local dance competition.
Evigan doesn't exactly look the part of the kinda tough girl from the streets - she plays the role like an irritable Hannah Montanna. Still, there's no denying that she's certainly got the moves and while I suppose I didn't believe her in the role, she certainly tries her hardest. She's matched well with Hoffman, and the two have good chemistry. The supporting players aren't going to win Oscars, but they do manage to not be totally forgettable in their on-screen time.
"Step Up 2" still doesn't step up in the plot department - the movie's story pulls together a tale pieced together from many similar movies from the past. The characters aren't exactly original, either, but at least they are a little more three-dimensional than some of the similar movies that have come out lately. Still, what impresses about "Step Up 2" is the fact that director Jon Chu manages to be one of the first directors of a film like this to deliver a strong visual style that matches the energy and creativity of the dancers, all of whom do the most impressive dance work I've seen in one of these sorts of films recently.
Overall, "Step Up 2" still doesn't change my opinion of this genre, but it is a step in the right direction, as the film's visual style captures the energy of the dance sequences well and the performances - while nothing award winning - are an improvement.
VIDEO: "Step Up 2" is presented by Touchstone in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is about as slick as it gets, with the glossy transfer looking well-defined and sharp throughout the show, with no inconsistency to the level of detail during the program. Edge enhancement wasn't seen and artifacting was kept to a bare minimum. The print also appeared to be in great shape. While the film didn't offer a particularly bold color palette, richer colors did look well-saturated. Black level also remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. This was certainly a very nice effort from Touchstone.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack flares up during the dance scenes, where the rears kick in with the dance music. Otherwise, as one might expect, this is a forward-heavy sound presentation that largely focuses on dialogue. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and rich, punchy music that has some very deep bass behind it.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes (including additional dances), 5 music videos, outtakes, video prank, "Meet the 410" and "Making of 'Step Up 2'".
Final Thoughts:Overall, "Step Up 2" still doesn't change my opinion of this genre, but it is a step in the right direction, as the film's visual style captures the energy of the dance sequences well and the performances - while nothing award winning - are better than expected. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a decent supply of minor extras. Recommended for fans of the genre only.
The Film C