Channing Tatum is in demand these days after stripping for Steven Soderbergh and fighting crime undercover with Jonah Hill. Step Up, released back in 2006, is not up to par with Tatum's more recent films, and plays like a bland knockoff of the already-middle-of-the-road Save the Last Dance. Tatum plays a hardheaded wannabe gangster and car thief who gets 200 hours of community service at an arts school after he and some friends ransack its auditorium. There, a pretty dancer catches his eye, and he offers to help her train for an end-of-year showcase. Nothing about Step Up is offensively bad, but it never rises above its bland, predictable framework.
Tyler Gage (Tatum), his buddy Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Mac's little brother, Skinny (De'Shawn Washington), bust up the auditorium of the Maryland School of the Arts for no good reason after leaving a party. Tyler lives with a foster family and has several previous criminal convictions, yet somehow only receives 200 hours of community service for vandalism to be served at the school. Tyler begins work as a janitor's helper, and sees several of the school's talented dance students practicing in the gym. Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan; now Jenna Dewan-Tatum) is working overtime because her senior showcase could lead to permanent work after high school, but her dance partner is forced to bow out due to injury. Tyler offers to fill in, and Nora convinces the school's administration to let Tyler work with her instead of mopping floors. Sparks fly.
Many a teen girl probably enjoys Step Up, but it's nothing more than a retread of countless other boy-meets-girl stories. Tyler is a real dick at first, so it's not surprising that he walks out on Nora after a few weeks. He comes running back, of course, but only after a scene where Nora's mother urges her to look for a more traditional career. Among the other lite-drama plot points: Nora's boyfriend, an aspiring singer, is not happy that she is working with a hoodlum; Nora's friend Lucy (Drew Sidora) sings backup for an unsupportive older beau; and Tyler's neighborhood friends chastise him for going straight.
Step Up is directed by Anne Fletcher, and is pre-packaged for easy digestion with flavors of romance, drama and dance. The pop/hip-hop soundtrack already feels dated, but those looking for newer jams can check out the film's two interchangeable sequels. To say Tatum has improved his craft would be a gross understatement, and he mostly shrugs and boogies his way through Step Up under the brim of his baseball cap. By the end, Tyler experiences love and loss and promises to be a better man. This is all very convenient, very safe and very boring.
The 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is nicely detailed, and retains a light layer of grain. The photography is a bit soft in spots, but the transfer has nice color balance and good black levels. There's nothing obtrusive like video noise or gross sharpening to detract from the final score.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is aggressive during the big dance numbers, and the boom-boom of the subwoofer drops in perfect harmony with the hip-hop soundtrack cuts. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and the surrounds are used for both ambient noise and action effects, as well as to pump the pulsing tunes. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also available, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
The disc includes a couple of Deleted Scenes (4:41/SD), some Bloopers (1:36/SD) and Making the Moves (4:39/SD), a very brief behind-the-scenes piece. Also included are four music videos: "Step Up" by Samantha Jade (3:34/SD); "(When You Gonna) Give it Up to Me" by Sean Paul feat. Keyshia Cole (4:08/SD); "Say Goodbye" by Chris Brown (4:30/SD); and "Get Up" by Ciara feat. Chamillionaire (5:07/SD).
Nothing about Step Up suggests it worthy of two sequels, but this Channing Tatum dance drama apparently has its fans. Tatum plays a bad seed given community service at an arts school, where he puts on his dancing shoes to help a pretty student. Full of convenient lessons but light on interesting drama, Step Up is mostly bland. Fans may want to pick up this Blu-ray, but the rest of you can Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.