Hood Hooks-Up with Dancing Debutante for Across the Tracks Romance
Tyler Gage (Tatum Channing) is a degenerate
in dire need of direction and a good role model. The at-risk teen lives
in a rundown, Baltimore row house with a couple of other orphans left
there by the state in the hands of alcoholic foster parents who are in
it more for the money than out of a concern for the welfare of the kids.
As a result, unsupervised Tyler has taken to hanging out after school with Mac
(Damaine Radcliff) and Skinny Carter (De’Shawn Washington), a couple of
brothers who are also going nowhere fast. Together, these three ne’er-do-wells
spend their time burglarizing buildings, stealing cars for chop shops, and hustling
bucks on the basketball court in the park.
One day, after the felonious trio breaks into the Maryland School for the Arts
with major mayhem in mind, Tyler ends up arrested and carted off to jail. Rather
than give the juvenile delinquent jail time, the judge decides to sentence him
to 200 hours of community service as a janitor at the very institution where
he was apprehended.
This turns out to be a blessing in disguise for the rhythmically-blessed felon,
for his only constructive talent happens to be freestyle street-dancing. And
while mopping floors as assigned by the skeptical school principal (Rachel Griffiths),
a series of fortuitous coincidences begin to unfold which will transform Tyler
from loser to a star in the making.
First, he locks eyes with Nora (Jenna Dewan), the sexiest girl on the premises,
as she prances about in stiletto heels while practicing in a dance studio for
a critical, upcoming talent showcase. Then, her partner, Andrew (Tim Lacatena),
conveniently sprains his ankle, leaving the poor thing in urgent need of a replacement
with her audition just two weeks away.
Next, we see that her egotistical boyfriend, Brett (Josh Henderson), is a creep
she’d be better off without. And to top it all off, her mother (Deidre
Lovejoy) is pressuring her daughter to enroll at an Ivy League school when it’s
obvious Nora would prefer to join a professional dance company than attend college.
All these developments dovetail perfectly with the arrival of Tyler, for this
answer to all her prayers soon sweeps Nora off her feet, literally and figuratively.
Step Up revolves around their rich girl-poor boy romance, one of the more enjoyable
across-the-tracks love stories in a long time. Sure the plot is fairly predictable
as it winds it way to a syrupy sweet finale, but veteran choreographer-turned-director
Anne Fletcher’s dazzling dance sequences and spectacular cinematography
along the waterfront more than make-up for the absence of the element of surprise.
Fletcher’s noteworthy debut also features a capable cast which includes
rapper Heavy D (sans The Boyz), and Baltimore native son/R&B crooner Mario.
The latter’s character, Miles, spends the bulk of the picture frustrated,
flirting with Nora’s best friend, Lucy (Drew Sidora).But not to worry,
this is a flick designed to leave everybody satisfied as they dance up the aisles,
wiping away a few tears. Mindless, formulaic fun, perfect escapist fare for the
dog days of summer.
Excellent (3.5 stars)