Step Up Blu-ray features mediocre video and solid audio in this mediocre Blu-ray release
Everyone deserves a chance to follow their dreams, but some people only get one shot. Tyler Gage is a rebel from the wrong side of Baltimore's tracks--and the only thing that stands between him and an unfulfilled life are his dreams of one day making it out of there. Nora is a privileged ballet dancer attending Baltimore's ultra-elite Maryland School of the Arts--and the only thing standing in the way of her obviously brilliant future is finding a great dance partner for her senior showcase. When trouble with the law lands Tyler with a community service gig at Maryland School of the Arts, he arrives as an angry outsider, until his skills as a gifted street dancer draw Nora's attention. Now, as sparks fly between them, both on and off stage, Tyler realizes he has just one performance to prove that he can step up ...
For more about Step Up and the Step Up Blu-ray release, see Step Up Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on August 5, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
In the mid-2000s, dance movies became all the rage in Hollywood, boosted by the surprising box office performance of 2003's "Honey" and the out-of-nowhere success of 2004's "You Got Served." Bringing hip-hop dancing to the masses, while offering studios low-budget entertainment to exploit, the films took flight, creating a profitable string of dramatically flabby efforts that bewitched younger audiences in the mood for flashy body movement and corny plots typically involving young thugs reaching their potential on the dance floor. While this type of story has long held position as the go-to plot for decades of screenwriting formula, 2006's "Step Up" displayed atypical laziness and tone-deaf direction for a feature concerning the electric boogaloo secrets of the underprivileged. Although "Step Up" would go on to spawn three sequels (one released just last month), the original picture displays the most strained storytelling of the bunch, wrapping itself in wet gobs of clichés while encouraging dismal performances, wisely keeping the fancy footwork out in front to prevent a deeper inspection of its sleepy particulars.
A troublemaker, dancer, and part-time car thief, Tyler (Channing Tatum) has found himself in a legal mess when he joins friends Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Skinny (De'Shawn Washington) as they trash a stage inside the Maryland School for Arts. Sentenced to 200 hours of community service, Tyler is ordered back to the MSA for janitorial work, under the supervision of Director Gordon (Rachel Griffiths). Refusing to take the punishment seriously, Tyler silently goes about his business, observing the school in motion as it prepares dancers and musicians for adult careers, soon befriending aspiring producer Miles (Mario), who's reluctant to share his hip-hop/classical hybrid compositions. Also catching Tyler's eye is Nora (Jenna Dewan), a struggling ballet dancer in need of fresh inspiration and a partner to help wow audiences at an upcoming school showcase. Volunteering to help out, Tyler discovers a taste for MSA discipline, building a relationship with Nora that turns romantic. Threatening his street cred, Tyler downplays his ballet training to his friends, yet he can't hide his newly charged spirit, encouraging Nora to take a chance on his urban moves to help her stand out from the competition.
Directed and choreographed by longtime Hollywood dancer Anne Fletcher (who would go on to helm "The Proposal" in 2009), "Step Up" is as simple as a screenplay gets, making it impossible to understand why the production takes itself so seriously. With its guy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-meets-prim-and-proper-ballet-dancer premise, the feature isn't armed with much in the way of imagination, plunging further into formula with the development of Tyler's urban upbringing, finding the young man surrounded by neglect and criminal temptations. It's a beauty and the beast riff set in a world of self-improvement, where Tyler receives a lasting education on the value of responsibility and the importance of love.
"Step Up" means well enough, yet its predictability is crippling, unnecessarily grinding the film to a halt while Fletcher and her screenwriters elect the most obvious, highly melodramatic path at every turn of the plot. There are some potentially pleasurable moments in here, finding Tyler's combustible relationship with Director Gordon teasing unrealized antagonism, and the school itself feels like an open opportunity to survey the gifted community at work. Cruelly, all that's here are tepid relationship blues and some passive professional backstabbing involving Miles, which eats up more of the plot that it should. While cliché isn't always a bad thing, Fletcher clings to routine like a pair of crutches, depending on the familiarity of it all to make through the demands of storytelling.
Performances also leave some visible bruising, with Tatum's b-boy work in "Step Up" unforgivably amateurish. Tossing around blue steel and clenched jaw ripples, Tatum is working overtime to come off hard yet vulnerable, while his line readings are sunk by weird, Walkenesque waves of unbalanced enunciation. It's nice to see Tatum grow ever so gently as an actor over the years, though "Step Up" remains a harsh reminder of his grating youthful swagger and general cluelessness with scenes that require internal communication. Dewan is equally flaccid in a less flashy role, sharing little chemistry with her co-star, despite their eventual marital union in real life.
While I don't have a DVD comparison handy, the AVC encoded image (2.34:1 aspect ratio) presentation doesn't offer much of a pronounced upgrade to BD, with a persistent softness that slips into blurriness at times, which could be revealing inherent cinematographic limitations. Still, fine detail is scarce, while mild filtering flattens the image some, keeping a filmic sense of grain at bay. Colors are adequate with costuming and stage decoration, allowed to communicate a wide range of hues, yet the BD looks on the dark side, muting true pop, while skintones come across erratic, losing human consistency. Edge delineation is troubling, removed entirely during evening sequences, with clotted blacks smothering the image. Print shows no sign of wear and tear.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix is surprisingly conservative for such a music-heavy picture. Soundtrack selections take priority, filling out the surrounds with a pronounced hustle, yet the tunes rarely show compelling movement. The thumpy songs do provide a heavy low-end touch, keeping the bass booming. Dialogue exchanges remain frontal and accessible, ignoring more interesting moments of echo and distance. Voices sound meaningful, balanced well with scoring demands, remaining clean. Atmospherics are satisfactory without a circular grip, while masses of moving bodies sustain clear dimension, helping to appreciate the choreography.
Commentary with director/choreographer Anne Fletcher, hip-hop choreographer Jamal Sims (both recorded in Toronto), and actors Channing Tatum (Austin) and Jenna Dewan (Los Angeles) is a chipper affair, filled with giggle fits and playful joking. Fletcher retains her leadership role, guiding the group through the movie, pointing out mistakes and location details, while the rest of the gang adds their own little morsels of information. While spunky, the track isn't an honest postmortem, with Fletcher fawning over everything in the frame, while Tatum insists on clowning to a point of irritation. The commentary would've revealed more life sticking solely with Fletcher, who seems to understand the process but has trouble staying on task with others "in the room."
Deleted Scenes (4:41, SD) are brief shots of Tyler's life at play and in school, without any critical storytelling revelations.
Bloopers (1:36, SD) is a quick run-through of mix-em-ups and on-set mischief.
"Making the Moves" (4:39, SD) focuses on the choreography of the movie, with Fletcher employing help from Sims to inspire and train the cast to execute complex dance moves on a short shooting schedule.
Music Videos for "Step Up" (3:34, SD) by Samantha Jade, "(When You Gonna) Give it Up to Me" (4:08, SD) by Sean Paul and Keyshia Cole, "Say Goodbye" (4:30, SD) by Chris Brown, and "Get Up" (5:07, SD) by Ciara and Chamillionaire are offered.
Trying to blend a Big Show finale with a violent climax cribbed from "Boyz n the Hood," "Step Up" falls completely apart, draining the natural vibrancy of dancing by playing the ending so severely, trying to motivate characters who don't require such a drastic shove. I can certainly understand the appeal of the choreography, and Fletcher does her best to keep the body language fresh and free, yet she's so hopeless with the rest of the picture, it hardly seems worth the effort to pick out grains of frantic footwork in a film that doesn't have the sense to emphasize its best feature.
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