Step Up

Josh Bell

Clearly, the answer to the world's problems is dance. Once again, people from different walks of life have transcended their differences via the power of movement, as rough-and-tumble street kid Tyler (Channing Tatum) and proper art-school student Nora (Jenna Dewan) fuse hip-hop and ballet, along with their lips, in this lifeless teen dance movie. If only Israelis and Palestinians could get together for some fierce footwork, the world would be a much better place.

Unfortunately, the only people who ever seem to come to such historic accords are beautiful and ethnically diverse young people with basic preconceived notions to overcome. In Step Up, Tyler is a hoodlum whose offenses land him community service at Baltimore's Maryland School of the Arts. While sullenly mopping floors and rocking a sideways baseball cap, Tyler catches the eye of senior dance major Nora, who conveniently needs a partner for her showcase performance.

At this point, there's no need for the film to continue, since everyone watching knows exactly what will happen next: At first antagonistic, Tyler and Nora gradually warm to each other and eventually fall in love, while Nora learns to loosen up and Tyler learns not to be so hostile. Mostly, there are dance montages. Lots and lots of dance montages.

This makes sense, since first-time director Anne Fletcher is also the film's choreographer, and is obviously more interested in showcasing her dance steps than in developing characters or furthering an interesting plot. The problem is that the dances are as bland as the camera work, and Tatum and Dewan have no chemistry while dancing or making out (not to mention whenever they're unfortunate enough to have to speak).

Co-writer Duane Adler was the mind behind the identical 2001 Julia Stiles hit Save the Last Dance, as well as some TV movie about salsa dancing. Dance has yet to help any actual people transcend racial and class boundaries or bring harmony to the universe, but that obviously doesn't mean he's going to stop trying.

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