Commercials for Step Up 2 the Streets proclaim the first movie to have been a "phenomenon." A more appropriate term might be "lucky break," for a haul of 65 million dollars hardly warrants phenomenon status. After all, that film came out on a weekend where making more money than Pulse and Zoom wasn't hard to accomplish. But it did end up as a financial success, which may be the sole reason why Step Up 2 the Streets exists. Movies like this represent the ultimate in cinematic laziness -- a sequel almost completely unrelated to its predecessor and one that slaps on the series name for the sake of a few extra bucks.
On the streets of Baltimore, tough girl Andie (Briana Evigan) and her friends, collectively known as the 410, reign supreme as hip-hop dance champions, from taking down all comers in impromptu battles to staging elaborate subway stunts which make them Interntet sensations. When her guardian threatens to send her away to a relative in Texas, Andie is forced into doing the unthinkable to remain in town: attend the Maryland School of the Arts. Unable to be tamed by the school's more rigid style of dancing and kicked out of the 410 for not being dedicated enough, Andie goes about finding a different way to get back into the stepping game. After hooking up with the school's star pupil (Robert Hoffman), Andie wrangles up her own crew of extremely talented but highly underestimated members of the student body. She's determined to whip them into shape in time to prove their worth in an underground dance competition known as "the Streets."
Maybe it's just me, but I don't get the key competitive ingredient that drives Step Up 2 the Streets. It's easy to see if someone's fudging up their steps doing the foxtrot or if a ballroom dancer's got two left feet. In contrast, the style embraced by Step Up 2 the Streets is one that apparently boils down to a contest between who can be the most spasmodic, and even that's not for sure, because the audience never knows who's winning or losing until the movie tells us so. It's not that I don't get fast-paced hip-hop dancing, for I enjoyed the documentary Rize. I thought it did a fine job of going over the movement's beginnings and how that style thrives in cities everywhere today. But Step Up 2 the Streets lacks the same kind of passion and reeks of being a project cooked up by a studio exec who hurried it into production because, gosh darn it, the kids like it for some reason.
Even on the most basic level of pure, escapist entertainment, Step Up 2 the Streets feels painfully restricted by a sense of routine. The movie doesn't have a valid point to make or serve as the springboard for an up-and-coming actor who's gonna make it big someday; the cornball screenplay and tried-and-true morals feel artificial; the story goes through the same motions of too many dance movies before it, right down to throwing in such weary chestnuts as the unassuming kid who's a dancing machine and the stuck-up authority figure who hates hip-hop but will change his mind in time for the climactic dance-off.
On the plus side, the acting in Step Up 2 is, for the most part, tolerable (a huge compliment when compared to Step Up's "Captain Emotionless" himself, Channing Tatum), and the moves expressed throughout the film are fun to watch. Dance movies are usually made to show off well-trained and talented performers. In this regard, Step Up 2 the Streets does well by its viewers, but in terms of coming up with a story interesting enough to keep us occupied in between dance sequences, it turns up one major misstep after another.
MY RATING: * 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated "PG-13" for language, some suggestive material and brief violence.)