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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Sequel delivers mindless fun

By Susan Hill
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 29, 2008

Ready for a break from the intellectual stimulation of school? Looking for more exciting dance scenery then the typical Pause hump-fests have to offer? I suggest you head on up to Lakeville, sit back, turn off your brain and bask in the clichéd glory of the dance flick extravaganza that is "Step Up 2 the Streets."

This sequel to "Step Up" from Walt Disney Studios gives you exactly what you pay for: fierce dance scenes, hot dancers and a bumping soundtrack. The rest of the movie, as far as dance films are concerned, is insignificant. And really, what makes this film better than its predecessor is its philosophy: less talk, more dance. Sure, the plot has been done, the acting is below average, and the dialogue scenes have the emotional resonance of a Backstreet Boys album.

But dance flick movies are almost by definition lacking in the plot and acting department, and if you're heading to this film looking for Oscar-worthy performances, I suggest you instead spend your $8.50 on one of the ridiculously good Oscar contenders out right now.

If, however, you decide to take your chances on "Step Up 2," you'll discover that the film is only a sequel in name. Except for a brief appearance from Channing Tatum, the star from the original "Step Up," the film is entirely new & well at least in theory.

The plot centers around Andie West (played by newcomer Briana Evigan), a beautiful and talented street dancer from "the wrong side of the tracks," who gets into highly competitive Maryland School for the Arts and is soon after kicked out of her street dance crew, the 401. Andie meets the school's golden child and resident hottie Chase Collins (played by dance flick veteran Robert Hoffman), who just so happens to be exceptionally talented at street dancing as well. Together, they manage to assemble a motley crew of wannabe street dancers from MSA and hope to compete on "the streets."

They soon discover, however, that on the streets, Andie's former crew, 401, reigns supreme. Will Andie's new crew -- dare I say it -- step up to the challenge? Will Andie and Chase overcome their socioeconomic differences and hook up? Will an over-earnest sermon about appreciating differences pop up somewhere before the end? Well, I think the answers are pretty obvious here. Throw in some plot development, an emo montage here, a dance montage there, a killer finale in the rain (alright, it's been done, but what hasn't been done in this movie?), underground clubs filled with Disney-fied Bratz doll look-a-likes, plus a whole lot of sweet bendy break dance moves in between, and you've got "Step Up 2."

As the film's star, Evigan delivers a charismatic (if not entirely believable) performance as Andie. No matter how many trucker hats, well-placed bandanas, or ripped belly shirts Disney puts on this girl, you can't get over the fact that she's about as "street" as Break-Dancing Barbie. She does have some talent, however, and perhaps in a different role where she's talking more than she's booty-shaking, she'll get some legitimate notice.

Hoffman, as usual, delivers in the dancing department, but comes up short in the acting realm. Sure, he's not as bad as he could be, but Evigan certainly surpasses him in overall talent. What Hoffman has going for him is some amazing moves and a ridiculously attractive smile. (The washboard abs which are displayed in several shirtless scenes don't hurt either.) You have to hand it to Disney this time. When it comes to sexually objectifying genders, they're equal opportunity in this film.

As Andie's dorky side-kick Moose, Adam Sevani delivers the most satisfying and unique performance in the film. He charms his way through the film with great comic delivery and the best dancing in the movie. Along with the other members of the MSA dance crew, Sevani provides welcome comic relief throughout the film.

Overall, "Step Up 2 the Streets" is about as cliche, harmless, and Disney-fied as "High School Musical," the movie it vehemently declares not to be. That doesn't change the fact, however, that by the end of the final dance sequence, I was about ready to get my white-girl groove on right in the middle of the theater. If you're looking for a similarly enlightening experience, check it out for yourself.

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