February 21, 2008

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Step Up 2 the Streets (PG-13)
A scrappy girl from the streets learns mad dance skills but also how to believe in herself and how to fight for something she believes in and other lessons involving the word “believe” in Step Up 2 the Streets, a dancetastic sequel to Step Up and a silly little dance movie that I just couldn’t bring myself to hate.

I think it was when the plucky underdog dance crew shot a video to “The Humpty Dance” that I really gave in to the cheesy fun.

Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), the kid from the school of hard knocks who finds his way at a fancy Baltimore arts school, returns just long enough to explain his post-Step Up success (he’s a touring dancer) and to help Andie (Briana Evigan), a girl from around the way, to get the same transforming life experience. Left a troubled youth by the death of her mother from cancer, Andie has her guardian, her mother’s friend Sarah (Sonja Sohn, Kima of The Wire), at wit’s end and ready to send her to a distant relative in Texas. Tyler convinces Sarah to let Andie have one last shot at the arts school, where perhaps she will find a positive outlet for her dancing, which currently has her borderline in trouble for pulling dance-related pranks that her crew videotapes and posts on the Internet. (That’s right, dance pranks.)

At first, the school’s classically trained snooty power-that-be Blake Collins (Will Kemp) isn’t so keen about taking Andie, but his younger brother Chase (Robert Hoffman), a fan of Andie since he saw her dancing in an underground club, thinks she’s swell and convinces his brother to let her enroll.

Once at the school, naturally, Andie finds herself caught between two worlds. She’s too street to get along with the trained and posed art school kids and she’s too interested in school to fit in with her old dance crew. What’s a girl to do? Why, befriend the school’s misfits and form her own dance crew to compete in the underground dance competition, of course.

There’s something inherently goofy about the “dance will save you” ethos of these movies. When paired with a certain amount of earnestness and catchy dance music, however, it results in a movie that, like a bag of oh-so-greasy potato chips, you can’t put down despite its manufactured flavor. This movie mixed “The Humpty Dance” with some fun salsa music and Flo Rida’s infectious “Low” — a tasty pop combination.

As with potato chips, once you get the basic formula right, you don’t need to be that good to be sufficiently satisfying. Step Up 2 the Streets has its hokeyness, but it also has a likeable-enough lead in Evigan and a fun sidekick in her outcast friend Moose (Adam G. Sevani). Step Up 2 the Streets is not a good movie but it ultimately does what it needs to and gets you believing, however briefly, that a group of performing arts high schoolers can find their confidence through a coordinated pop and lock routine. C+

Rated PG-13 for language, some suggestive material and brief violence. Directed by Jon Chu and written by Toni Ann Johnson and Karen Barna (from characters by Duane Adler),Step Up 2 the Streets is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Buena Vista Pictures.