The idea of two artists from different worlds being thrown together is nothing new. It’s been the subject of movies from The Cutting Edge to Save the Last Dance. In that regard, Step Up contains nothing new. It does offer some catchy beats, stylish movies, and beautiful faces to drool over, however. Sometimes you have to take your entertainment where you can find it.
I remain unimpressed with Channing Tatum as an actor. While there is no debating his physical presence and appeal, he has the acting ability of a stone. The man may not be able to act, but he can move – a quality that really makes Step Up visually interesting if not the deepest movie of the year.
In Step Up Tatum plays Tyler Gage, a bit of a street thug who gets in trouble for breaking into a local Maryland arts school and destroying some of the school’s property with a few friends. Tyler is sentenced to two hundred hours of community service to be performed at the school where he committed the crime – that means a lot of janitorial work cleaning up around the old building. Due to his physique, Tyler is instantly noticed by some of the school’s female dancers, particularly Nora (Jenna Dewan) and Lucy (Drew Sidora). Nora accidentally discovers Tyler’s street dance moves and, when her dance partner for her senior showcase performance twists his ankle, she asks him to fill in. Together the two put on some amazing moves and learn a little about the different worlds they hadn’t experienced before. Mostly they just look hot.
As I mentioned, the story idea itself isn’t incredibly creative. The typical obstacles pop up, both as roadblocks toward Nora’s performance piece (the on-again off-again romance potential between the two, the injured partner returning) and in a relationship between Nora and Tyler (his friend doesn’t understand his interest in the snooty rich kids of the school and one of those snooty kids is her boyfriend). Likewise, the movie’s idea of art surpassing cultural borders and becoming something that allows the artist to transcend their past isn’t new either. Really, there’s nothing in the film that hasn’t been seen before, but making a movie isn’t always about originality. Sometimes, it’s about putting what’s been done before into an equally interesting and compelling package for a new generation to discover, and that’s where this movie succeeds.
Not being part of that new generation, I can’t say exactly why Step Up appeals to me. It is definitely a guilty pleasure film that I probably won’t admit to watching all that often, but wouldn’t turn away from if I came across it while weekend channel surfing. Despite a lack of originality, it is a fun story and a somewhat empowering one – fight to follow your dreams because they can get you farther in life than not following them. Is it a true message? Maybe… or maybe not, but it’s certainly fun watching Tyler and Nora figure that out for themselves.
The DVD producers for Step Up definitely know their target audience and position the DVD release accordingly. There are few extras of substance about actual filmmaking included, but music videos and more footage show off what fans of the movie really want – hot music and more looks at the cast of the film.
The extra footage is made up of two sections: deleted scenes and bloopers. The deleted scenes are only about four minutes long and are mostly made up of films that clearly should have been cut from the movie. They aren’t necessary and hurt the pacing of the film. If that’s not clear to you from watching them, there is an optional commentary from director Anne Fletcher who pretty much explains that for every clip. The blooper reel is just over a minute long and isn’t anything special, but for those die hard fans of Channing Tatum it’s another opportunity to see him at work – and he even lifts his shirt in one shot.
There is a short featurette about the making of the movie, which isn’t much longer than any of the footage listed above. It’s very short and doesn’t really go into how the movie was made. It just explains what the movie is about with a quick interview with some of the cast members. For a real look at the making of the film there is a feature commentary that includes Tatum, Dewan, and Fletcher discussing interesting tidbits about the movie, such as the fact that every frame was filmed in Maryland and how the cast performed their own moves. The commentators like to joke around a lot, which makes getting some of the information out of the commentary kind of difficult, but at least it’s more interesting than some commentaries out there.
Step Up definitely caters to the MySpace crowd and used that to the film’s advantage, marketing the movie with a dance contest on MySpace that gave winners the chance to appear in a music video for the movie. A video of Tatum, Dewan, and Fletcher watching the dance entries is neat, if just to see their reactions to some of the entries. The winning entries are also included, as well as a montage of other entries. Finally, four music videos, including the video the winners appear in, are also on the disc.
Personally, I would like to have seen a lot more behind the scenes material included in this set. There was obviously a lot of work put into these dance sequences – surely there could have been more than four minutes devoted to showing those. Hopefully this mediocre Step Up will be the only edition released. The movie itself really doesn’t justify multiple releases, although that’s never really stopped anyone before. Besides, as long as the producers can come up with more material featuring Channing Tatum, the rabid fans are almost guaranteed to pick it up.