STEP UP 2: THE STREETS, man, it's a clumsy film title and hearing it probably won't make you catch your breath in anticipation. But hold up. This is a pretty good musical drama. It's also a sequel to [[ASIN:B000J3OTSM Step Up (Widescreen Edition)]], the 2006 Channing Tatum/Jenna Dewan surpriser which made enough duckets in the box office so that, now, we get a return visit to the prestigious Maryland School of the Arts.
A wave of public disturbances has hit Baltimore, public disturbances in the way of sizzling street dancing, baby. This time out, the troubled kid is Andie (Briana Evigan), an orphan who gets in trouble because of her street gang affiliation but who then gets a second chance when she's accepted into the Maryland School of the Arts. But it's not all about Andie. When her time spent at the MSA gets her booted out of her street crew, the notorious 410, she forms her own crew, consisting mostly of misfit students at the MSA. And, of course, there's an ongoing underground dance competition. And, of course, there's an exhilarating, stop-the-presses dance battle at the end. Naturally, the dance-off is between the MSA crew and the 410.
It's a straightforward, by-the-numbers story, but we all know that the story is just there to prop up the spectacular dance sequences. The acting by the kids is serviceable, with Briana Evigan, daughter of Greg Evigan, holding the viewers' attention with her sexy, spirited presence. The other standout, to me, is scene-stealer Adam G. Sevani, who plays the gangly, geeky Moose. On the other hand, that guy who plays the stuffy dance director is awful.
This is a PG-13 flick, so it's got pretty tame street cred. One of the kids gets roughed up a bit and a dance studio is vandalized. The tough talking, keeping-it-real smack the kids spout here is about as tough and keeps it about as real as a 1970's Kurt Russell Disney movie. Near the end of this flick, does anyone really buy into that boisterous crowd being swayed so easily by Andie's "We call this a battle, but what are we fighting for" speech? Yikes!
There are some good-looking folks in this cast, so if you're wondering about the raunch factor, well, there's a kiss at the end, which I guess is smoking enough that it won the 2008 MTV Best Kiss Award, for whatever that's worth. But most of the lascivious stuff pops up in the dance routines.
Apologies to the bellylicious Briana Evigan, but the backbone of STEP UP 2 is the electrifying street dancing. While the plot here is as anemic as that of the first film, the dance elements in this sequel are even more dynamic and definitely more street-centric. Breakdancing, krumping, popping, locking, you name it, it's here. Briana herself shows off some skills, but, really, the sickest moves are demonstrated by the 410 crew, by Adam Sevani and by the actors who play Monster, Cable, and Missy. Robert Hoffman (Chase) doesn't have Channing Tatum's magnetism, but he contributes with some nifty popping. Speaking of Tyler Gage (Tatum), he drops in for an extended cameo, to add continuity and provide a link to the first STEP UP. His one-on-one dance battle with Andie happens to be one of the movie's showstoppers.
The music is so key to movies like this. The STEP UP 2 soundtrack, aggressive and with plenty of head-bopping hooks, is a crucial supporting character. Viewers be cautioned, as these songs may induce manic bouts of getting down (or attempts at getting down). Just don't hurt yourself. Some of the hot tracks included are Flo Rida & T-Pain, "Low," Missy Elliott's "Shake Your Pom Pom," and Digital Underground's classic "Humpty Dance." This last track, by the way, is perfectly, hilariously used in the MSA crew's online prank.
STEP UP 2: THE STREETS isn't as sanitized as HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, but neither does it come close to the gritty reality of, say, the [[ASIN:B000ARFPOO Rize]] documentary. Still, the focus here is on the dancing. And, when it comes to that, the pulse of the street beats in this film.