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Featured Blu-ray Review: Step-Up

July 2nd, 2012

Step-Up - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Step-Up came out in 2006. The film cost just $12 million to make and expectations were rather low; however, it turned out to be a serious hit at the box office earning enough during its opening weekend to cover the production budget. It was profitable enough to be turned into a franchise, with the latest installment opening later this month. Now that it is coming out on Blu-ray, is it worth upgrading for fans? And if you missed it the first time around, is it worth picking up?

The Movie

During the opening credits we are introduced to two different worlds of dance: Hip Hop and Ballet. Tyler Gage runs with Mac Carter, and Mac's younger brother, Skinny. After the three of them get chased out of a party, at gun point, the three of them decide to check out a school, Maryland School of Arts. They perform a little petty vandalism, which attracts the attention of the security guard and Tyler is caught and sentenced to 200 hours of community service at the school. From there we see a bit of his home life with his foster family, Lena and Bill Freeman, which is not exactly warm, although he does share a moment with Camille, who is another foster child living there.

When Tyler arrives at the school to start his community service, it is a bit of a culture shock for him. He then meets Director Gordon, the head of the school, who directs him to Mr. McCaffrey, the janitor, who will be his boss during his sentence. While picking up trash, he spots Nora Clark dancing and there's some attraction there, and Lucy Avila, Nora's best friend, thinks he's hot as well. Of course, Nora has a boyfriend, Brett Dolan (Josh Henderson). When Mac Carter and Skinny show up, to drop off a stolen car so Tyler can drive it to Omar's chop shop, they start bugging him about working there. Tyler responds by showing off his dance moves and combining hip hop with the classical ballet he saw Nora perform earlier. She sees him perform, which is key because...

While Nora is preparing for another rehearsal for her "senior showcase", Andrew (Tim Lacatena), her dance partner, comes in with a sprained ankle. It should be healed in time for her performance, but she will need to find a new partner to rehearse with. She first asks her boyfriend, but he's too busy with his music, even though her friend, Miles, was dealing with the same pressures and he was able to help. But, Brett still says no. So Nora has no choice but to hold an audition, in montage form, no less. She can't find anyone worthy, so Tyler volunteers. At first she dismissing him, but he does have the strength to perform the necessary lifts, and she is desperate. It takes a bit to convince Director Gordon, but she agrees.

At first, there's bit of a culture clash between the two and we have rehearsal montage after rehearsal montage, but while their relationship starts out cold, a romance begins to grow between them. And no, that is not a spoiler.

This is a strictly by-the-numbers film. It has one part cross-class romance and one part undiscovered talent, with a side of after school special. (The last part comes into play when Tyler tries to get Mac to reevaluate their lives, which consists of stealing cars and hustling people on the basketball court.) Granted, being formulaic isn't a deal-breaker with this type of film, as long as the characters are compelling. Unfortunately, that's not the case here, as none of the characters are particularly interesting. Part of this is because they are underwritten and are merely clichés, but part of this is due to the stiff acting. Almost none come across as real people. It is particularly damning that Channing Tatum and Jenna Dawson have no real chemistry together. This is also odd, because they got married in 2009 and are still together. Three years is like a lifetime compared to the average Hollywood marriage. Because they don't have enough on-screen chemistry, their dramatic scenes fall flat, neither of their characters get an emotional core, and their romance is not really a selling point

The film does have some strengths, mostly the music and dancing. The director, Anne Fletcher, started out as a choreographer and she is able to bring the dancing scenes to life, and Channing Tatum and Jenna Dawson do have great chemistry when dancing. Even Tyler's dance scene with his little sister, Camille, is fun. Sadly, there is not enough dancing to compensate for the static and inert dramatic scenes.

After reviewing all three movies in the Step-Up franchise, I would argue the third one is by far the best. The second one has more dancing than this film, so that helps, but the dramatic narrative is equally flawed. One could argue this one is the weakest, which is strange, as franchises usually deal with diminishing returns.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary with the director, Anne Fletcher, and the two stars, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dawson. There are outtakes and deleted scenes. The short making of featurette focuses on the dance routines, while there are four music videos. That's not a lot of extras, nor are any of them new for the Blu-ray.

The video and audio are good, given the film's production budget. It only cost $12 million to make, so don't expect a visual feast. The film does have high details, and very strong colors, as well as deep blacks. There's no signs of digital manipulation or compression issues. The audio is is arguably better than the video, at least when it comes to the musical numbers. There are several scenes in clubs and the music and people will surround you, plus the subwoofer will get a workout here. On the other hand, a lot of the drama scenes are front and center.

The Blu-ray costs $15, which is as high as I would be willing to spend for shovelware.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of Step-Up, then the upgraded audio and video on the Blu-ray is probably worth the money, but it's close. If you haven't seen the movie, but are a fan of Channing Tatum's recent work in 21 Jump Street or Magic Mike, be warned, his acting has gotten a lot better recently and he's very stiff in this film. If you are a fan of the genre, but haven't seen any of the franchise yet, grab Step Up 3D or the combo pack instead.


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Filed under: Video Review, Step Up, 21 Jump Street