Step Up 2: The Streets

2008, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins

Review

STEP UP 2: THE STREETS
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Less a sequel than a variation on a theme, this follow-up to the popular dance romance pits high-spirited street steppers against the snooty, uptight guardians of high culture.

Raised in a rough Baltimore neighborhood, Andie West (Briana Evigan) lost her mother as a child and channeled her anger and grief into stepping. The 410 crew are her family, and soon she's cutting class, clubbing all night, participating in fierce step competitions and performing elaborate street pranks that draw the dismayed attention of local media. Andie is forced to clean up her act when her caring but fed-up guardian threatens to send her to live with an aunt in Texas. On the advice of neighborhood success story Tyler (Channing Tatum, star of STEP UP), who parlayed stepping into a real career, Andie reluctantly auditions for the Maryland School of the Arts. To her amazement, she's accepted, mostly because star-student Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman), who's caught her moves at a local hotspot, intervenes on her behalf. Chase wants to bring some street-bred fire into MSA's studios, but he's locked in a power struggle with his brother, Blake (dancer Will Kemp), the school's new director. Hired to spearhead a major fundraising effort, Blake is determined to mold his students into paragons of the classical tradition: Ghetto stylings scare the deep-pocket crowd. Meanwhile, Andie's old friends shun her for hanging out with rich kids and forgetting where she comes from. Chase persuades her to start her own crew, drawing from Chase's carefully compiled list of School of the Arts rebels, oddballs and outcasts. They have heart and passion, but can the find the grit to challenge street-tempered crews like the 410?

"This ain't HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL," bellows truculent DJ Sand when the MSA crew first tries to take the floor, but frankly, that's exactly what it is. The stepping is terrific and the climactic sequence, a knowing nod to the infamous Bollywood "wet sari" number, is a knock out. But the united colors of we-can-overcome cuties, predictable class conflicts and sanitized keeping-it-real bluster bring the story's intensely formulaic nature into the . And not to nitpick, but you have to question the dance savvy of a film in which provocateur Matthew Bourne's all-male Swan Lake (which Kemp danced) is invoked as the epitome of all that's conservative at the ballet. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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