There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Have you seen Take the Lead, released just this past March? Then you’ve seen Step Up. The movies even share a cast member, Jenna Dewan, who, uh, takes the lead in Anne Fletcher’s debut. Dewan, a professional dancer, plays Nora, a student at the Maryland School of the Arts in Baltimore whose senior showcase could be her key to avoiding her mother’s deal that if the rug-cutting doesn’t work out, she must apply to some Godforsaken place like Cornell. Nora’s an uptown girl, and she’s never had a backstreet guy—that is, until thuggy Tyler (Channing Tatum), serving community service for trashing an elaborate set on the school’s stage, begins working there as a janitor. When Nora’s dance partner sprains his ankle and her auditions for a replacement are abysmal, Tyler, who likes to convulse to music with his friends, offers to help Nora practice. Of course, the bad boy’s perfect—in every dreamy way—even when he’s an hour late or bails on her completely. Soon, Tyler’s encouraging her to follow her original vision of not a couple’s dance but an ensemble Britney number. You know the rest. Step Up has all the elements of a shamelessly predictable story: Teens from the ghetto giving rich kids the evil eye, a sassy best friend, the cold lady-who-lunches mom versus the warm works-at-the-all-night-diner mom, a tragedy, a triumph. One thing that’s missing, though, is character development. All Tyler and his buds (Damaine Radcliff and De’Shawn Washington) seem to do is wreck stuff, playfully push one another, and giggle until you can’t stands no more. The actors are merely adequate—the worst, surprisingly, is a stilted Rachel Griffiths as the school dean—and there’s only occasional, and very mild, humor in Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg’s script. On the plus side, Nora’s hair and practice outfits are pretty, and when the characters do start bustin’ a move, it’s impressive—and actually entertaining. The best way to approach Step Up is to adopt the pre-stepped-up Tyler’s perspective on life: If you don’t hope for anything, you won’t be disappointed.