Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Step Up Retrospective: Step Up 2 - The Streets (2008)

Step Up 2: The Streets
Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman, Adam G Sevani, Cassie Ventura, Black Thomas, Will Kemp, Sonja Sohn and Channing Tatum
Rated: PG-13

Yo, why my crib smell like Funyuns, broccoli and ball sweat?

With Step Up 2 I found myself much more interested and enjoying than the first one.  It was a step in the right direction, or direction I was hoping for when it came to these sequels.  While there is some stuff they want to play straight with the story, its a small percentage as this goes into a sort of B-movie territory focusing on much more loose and extravagent dance pieces that don't feel limited while having an intense rivalry plot that is almost humorous givent he circumstances it surrounds.
So far in the Step Up movies, I'm catching onto some things I hope are tropes of the rest of the movies.  One, we need to have a random basketball scene somewhere in the mix.  Two, there's got to be the moment where the dance partners or crew split up. Which leads me to the third thing; the bummed, depressed, down and out montage about said break up that bridges into the third act.  And to that Step Up 2 EXCELLED!  I was loving the overdramatic and on the nose hilarity of this one's montage.  Especially Chase just sitting there with his blank stare during a rehearsal.  Good stuff.
I found the whole "dance gang" aspect of the film to be pretty humerous in the film.  And with the whole pranks things going on, this film actually had a genuinely well constructed and funny sequence involving the MSA students pranking Tuck.  Well done Step Up.  Conversely, the extreme lengths gone to vandalize are kind of funny too for this whole "illegal" dance competition.  Its was just so funnys how this big illegal underground dance competition is simply called "The Streets"  And the conviction and intensity to which the character say it and discuss it is another level of enjoyment.
While we have pretty much a fresh cast, the connective tissue in the film is the MSA.  Oh, and Channing Tatum shows up as...I guess a close friend of our main character Andie?  I thought relative, but in my research I guess he's not.  And then he's able to convince her guardian to give her a shot at MSA before shipping her to her aunt in Texas.  Andy and Tyler do get to do a "battle" for the decision which is where I perked up, noticing that the tone and direction of this movie was about to change for the positive and be more a movie I want this series to be.
The actual dancing is a 'step up' (yok yok yok) from the previous film.  Maybe its because they went to "the streets", but it feels less hampered and safe.  Its a little more ballsy and colorful here.  We get dances with trampolines and one during a fierce rain storm.  There is also a sweet cameo by the dancing group the Jabberwockies.  All the dancing, moves and whatnot keep your attention a lot more than the "also ran" they were treated as in the previous film.  I think Jon M. Chu has a better eye for it and they are film and presented in a much more fun and engaging manner.
Part of the fun here too, in my opinion, is not buying some of these actors in their parts.  Briana Evigan sure can dance, but do I for one buy her as this down and out, lost, depressed, angry street smart, thug dancer?  Haha, not by a mile.  She kinda looks like Sophia Bush, who also challenges viewers to accept her in roles.  Also Robert Hoffman as Chase is her perfect male equivalent as he tries to hit the street life.  Surrounding them though are some fun, colorful and somewhat cartoonish characters like Moose to fill out and have us enjoying people that aren't just the two leads.  This isn't some masterpiece script, but you actually are allowed to know the other dancers in the group this time around and it works itself better into your enjoyment and the stakes of the final dance number.
The Streets was a noticeable improvement from the previous film. It was still predictable, but it was less route, took some chances and colored the pages a lot better than the previous film.  It wasn't afraid to be silly and embrace the silliness.  I think it still wanted to play it straight, but was testing the waters with getting sort of crazy.  The filmmaking is less pedestrian, the dancing is more free and exciting, and the characters are more fun and silly.  This is the film I was kind of hoping for when I went into the series.  But, I think they can do even better than this.  I'm hoping Step Up 3D gets even crazier.  I mean, that's the only way to stretch it right?

NEXT TIME: Stepping up in the third dimension!

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