You just might want to be taken to these “Streets.” Though Jon Chu’s sequel “Step Up 2” doesn’t quite live up to its Channing Tatum predecessor, the energetic, urban dance sequences and gritty hip-hop soundtrack are enough to keep the teen dance movie genre hoppin’. You’ll leave wishing you could bust out some of these moves the next time you’re in the club, but dream on.
It’s the usual boy-meets-girl, boy-dances-with girl, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl plot line. Instead of the boy from the streets and the girl from the stuffy arts school, as in “Step Up,” this time around we get Andie (Briana Evigan), a hip-hop dancer in a competitive inner-city dance crew called the 410, and Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman), a dance student at the Maryland School of the Arts (MSA) with a penchant for Andie’s street moves. And instead of an overbearing parent, the main antagonist is Chase’s snooty (and British?) ballerina brother who won’t stand for Andie’s non-traditional steps.
At the start of the film, the 410 get a bad rap on the Baltimore News for dressing up as thugs and spontaneously getting crunk in a subway car. Andie’s guardian (Sonja Sohn) catches the clip on the news and informs her she should pack her bags for her aunt’s house in Texas.
Of course, the film must have some link to the original: dreamy Channing Tatum returns long enough to have a dance off with Andie. The bet? If Andie wins, she will give up and head south, but if he wins, she will go to MSA and take school seriously. A few back-flips off trampolines and Tatum has won the bet. Andie secures herself a spot at MSA when Chase urges his brother to admit her, but she soon finds herself stuck between “the Streets” and school. Oddly, “the Streets” isn’t exactly a place; rather, it’s a yearly dance competition between all the crews in the city. Andie’s involvement with this new school gets her cast out of the group, but with Chase’s help they start their own crew at MSA.
The dance sequences are the most exhilarating parts of the entire film. They explode with enough style to keep you involved in the thrill of the dance floor, no matter how short your attention span might be. Thank God for that, because when the music slows down and the drama between characters unfolds, there is little worthwhile to say. The screenplay and acting are more “High School Musical” than anything else, complete with superficial character development and silly one-liners.
Though Andie and Chase are easy on the eyes and have chemistry when in motion, their flirtatiousness seems unnatural as soon as words come out of their mouths. It’s difficult to really care whether or not they get together in the end, though one tango scene does get a bit steamy. Let’s face it, Robert Hoffman is no Channing Tatum, and these are dancers camouflaged as actors.
In order to send the film off with a final dramatic boom, the finale becomes contradictory to the premise of the original film. Instead of being about the freedom to express oneself through dance regardless of class or color, the “street” kids are portrayed as stereotypical self-serving hoodlums. By turning “the Streets” into a competition, one side must inevitably be right, and this time it’s the privileged art school kids.
If you can disregard all dialogue and implicit racism, and instead marvel at the sheer virtuosity of the actors moving their body parts independently of one another, you’ll enjoy the mindless entertainment. Ultimately, these streets are filled with all style and no substance.