Sunday 5 August 2012

From the archive: "Step Up"

"He's a defiant rebel from the wrong side of Baltimore," go the press notes. "She's a privileged dancer from an elite performing arts school." Never mind stepping up, how about stepping away from the cliches? Following in some precisely choreographed footsteps, Anne Fletcher's film can't, so inevitably when her partner sprains his ankle just days before an important dance showcase, young Nora (Jenna Dewan) turns to Tyler (Channing Tatum), the big lunk in overalls previously seen pushing a mop around or disconsolately changing fluorescent tubes in the arts school corridors as part of his community service. Fletcher adheres to the usual simplicity, cutting between the crystal-decanted repasts of the rich heroine, over which applications to Cornell and Brown are discussed, and Tatum's cramped, chaotic working-class kitchen, attended by kids of many colours. A last-reel drive-by tragedy is perfunctory in the extreme; Rachel Griffiths slums it in arty scarves as the school's predictably prim director. Dewan and Tatum can at least move - unlike, say, Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance, from which Step Up borrows one of its writers, and arguably its entire screenplay - but it really does seem as though this kind of across-the-tracks teen romance has now played out more times in the movies than it ever has in real life.

(October 2006)


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