Step Up

By  · Published on August 26th, 2006

Release Date: August 11, 2006

I have grown very tired of these movies in recent years. What movies am I referring to, you may ask? All of these teeny-bopper 16 year old girls acting like adults and dancing their way into the arms of a love they can’t have. Dirty Dancing was one of the only enjoyable films of this type, but that is almost solely due to the fact that it was the most original. And unfortunately for me, the lack of originality has been flowing more and more copiously in recent years, with releases like Save the Last Dance, Take the Lead, Drive Me Crazy, Honey, the list goes on and on. And why does Hollywood continue spewing out these haphazardly crafted regurgitations? Because the teenage girls of America, the MTV generation, just eat them up. I can’t blame them for making these flicks, but that doesn’t mean that they are making quality films.

So I guess the most I could have expected out of a film like this summer’s Step Up is a little bit of humor, maybe a decent soundtrack, and a story that is, to say the least, predictable. And that is almost exactly what I got. But I had fun watching this movie, because I got the opportunity to play a little game that I like to call, “Follow the bouncing Clich©.” Let me explain…

We will start with the boy, played by Channing Tatum, who is from the wrong side of the tracks. His irreverence for authority and his reckless behavior can only lead to one thing, trouble with the law. Almost on cue, he and his two friends break into an art school and create all kinds of damage (that can easily be worked off with community service, coincidentally). And go figure, he is the only one who gets caught. Sentenced to work at the school, he reluctantly takes to the work with the afore mentioned irreverence, but before long he spies a girl, played by relative newcomer and supreme hottie Jenna Dewan. The girl is a senior working on her dance routine that will “make or break the rest of her life as a dancer” when her dance partner goes down with a sprained ankle. What is a girl to do but to take a liking to the bad boy in the janitorial uniform with some hidden dance skills and as if it were meant to be, a love story is born.

The rest of the film can be easily predicted as the couple’s affection grows then comes under scrutiny, causing their bond to be tested on multiple occasions. But you know the rest, and I am no plot spoiler, so I will just move on to telling you what I thought of the film. Even though it is a very familiar tale, the film was surprisingly entertaining. As expected, the soundtrack was very upbeat and it fit very well into some vibrant dance scenes. The dancing was also pretty exceptional, with the two leads displaying great aptitude in some precisely choreographed routines.

The two young actors at the focal point of the film were also delightful surprises. You may recognize Channing Tatum from secondary roles in Coach Carter and Havoc, but he has never really had a big lead role like this. He handles himself well as the centerpiece of the story, channeling Eminem from 8 Mile and mixing it with some dance moved easily extracted from You Got Served. Jenna Dewan is another first timer when it comes to having to carry a film, but she handles her role with a great deal of class and grace, which is surprising for a young actress. The other thing that she shows off is the fact that she can dance, but if you have seen Take the Lead, then you already knew that.

In the end the film will not pull any punches or leave you stunned in any way. It is a story that we have seen over and over again, but for girls in their mid-teens, it never seems to get old. The saving grace of this one, at least for someone like me who doesn’t like these sorts of flicks, is the fact that the film is surprisingly well acted and it moves at a swift pace, mostly due to the upbeat soundtrack. Step Up is nothing original, but it doesn’t linger and it isn’t terrible, it makes for a very palpable date night flick that is sure to captivate any young lass with its heartfelt love story and its chiseled leading man. Translated loosely, girls will like it and guys won’t fall asleep.

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)