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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Ballet Meets Hip-Hop
by Betty Jo Tucker

If there’s dancing in a movie, I’m usually first in line at the box office. Having been a dancer for a good part of my life, I know the discipline and dedication that art form requires and how rewarding it can be. So, of course, I could hardly wait to see Step Up, a film combining hip-hop and ballet.

In this dance-driven romance directed by choreographer Anne Fletcher, a guy from the wrong side of the tracks and a gal who’s one of the best dancers at an elite performing arts school get together and transcend their differences through dance. Channing Tatum (She’s the Man) plays Tyler Gage, who’s sentenced to community service at the Maryland School of the Arts after he and his friends vandalize the stage there. While serving his sentence, Tyler meets and falls for Nora, played by Jenna Dewan (Take the Lead), the school’s prima ballerina. Because Nora’s partner for the school’s Senior Showcase is injured, Tyler offers to sub for him.

Nora has seen Tyler doing some street style moves, so she thinks he might be the one to help her -- at least he’s strong enough to do the lifts required.  Although Tyler has no training, he’s a hunky bundle of raw talent who sees this as an opportunity for a new life off the streets. But these two youngsters are polar opposites, so they must overcome their differences -- and Tyler has to decide what he really wants and go for it -- in order to make their partnership work.

Watching Tyler and Nora bring everything together and show off their talents at the school’s Big Show is enjoyable, but --  sadly -- this film is not the special treat I was expecting. Fame or Saturday Night Fever or Center Stage, it isn’t. However, maybe my expectations for this little film were too high, especially since I’ve been spoiled lately by the remarkable dancing showcased weekly on TV’s So You Think You Can Dance -- where all types of routines are performed so well and interrupted only by commercials.  

In Step Up, the gritty story interferes with its dance presentation. Car thefts, a shooting and the death of one its characters made me think I was looking at a TV crime show, not a dance-driven movie. I definitely wanted more dancing and less melodrama. Still, the terrific closing number is something to cheer about. And the two appealing leads are entertaining to watch when they rehearse and perform, mostly because of their different styles. Here’s hoping they go on to appear in other, better dance films.

(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated “PG-13” for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo.)

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