Step Up 2 the Streets
Yet another army of urban performance artists hits, ahem, the streets in Disney's latest teen-targeted dance-and-angst flick—a sequel to 2006's 'Step Up.'
Andie West is a natural-born dancer. And her incredible abilities have been her only joy since her mother died. But even though she's been living with her mom's best friend, Sarah, her loyalties reside with a crew of urban dancers called the 410.
The 410 live to be the best dance crew on the street. They stage impromptu public dance experiences (in places like, say, a moving subway car), videotape themselves and post the footage online to boast of their daring and skill. One such excursion, however, gets them labeled as "public disturbances" by the police.
After Andie's repeated incidents involving skipping school and wild behavior, her face on the news is the last straw for Sarah. She decides that the rebellious girl must be shipped off to her aunt's home in Texas. But before being exiled to the Lone Star State, Andie gets one last chance to audition at a local arts college.
The Maryland School of Arts is a prestigious institution. Getting in the front door is tough. But with some help from the school director's younger brother, Chase, Andie makes the grade. The director is determined to help Andie become a disciplined dancer, something the teen isn't so sure about herself. She's also a little wary of Chase's reputation as a "player." On top of that, all her time spent at school gets her kicked out of the 410.
What to do? Well, there's only one choice now: Andie must form a new crew—made up of quirky-but-gifted college outcasts—and take it 2 the Streets.
When Andie gets bounced from the 410, her good friend Missy quits too, and she follows Andie to her new crew. Andie's college friends thank her for supporting them and challenging them to do their best. Sarah eventually recognizes and acknowledges strengths in Andie that she hadn't seen before. Chase confides in Andie that her involvement at school makes him feel more normal.
A dancer puts his palms together in the form of praying hands during a dance move. Andie speaks to Chase when he can't see her, and he looks up and says, "God?"
Sexual imagery is where Step Up 2 gets its shoestrings a bit tangled. By today's ever-slipping standards, the crews' dance moves aren't hyper-sexualized. But they still feature plenty of hip shaking, crotch cupping, body rubbing and "booty" bouncing—not to mention a group-dance finale in the rain that plasters participants' clothing to their skin. Elsewhere, Andie and another girl waggle their backsides at the camera and into the mirror while rehearsing in the dance studio.
Andie tends to trot around in ... not much. Sometimes she wears as little as a bra and sweatpants. Her other wardrobe selections include cleavage-baring T-shirts, midriff-revealing tops cropped two-thirds of the way up her torso and sweatpants that hang below her hipbones. Other young women frequently wear form-fitting shirts, sports bras, bikini tops and low-cut blouses as well.
A couple guys take off their shirts while dancing or working out. One young man reveals a well-defined upper body, while others compare their abs. As a joke, a guy wears a bra.
Andie and Chase share a quick kiss while sitting in the dark. Later they kiss passionately in a crowd.
The leader of the 410 and his comrades punch and pummel Chase, driving him to the sidewalk. One guy spits on him. The next day, Chase has a bruised and scraped face. We also see a dance studio that's been broken into and vandalized. (Mirrors are smashed and walls are spray painted.)
Crude or Profane Language
Crude language includes a half-dozen or so uses each of "a--" and "h---." "D--n" is blurted out, and God's name is misused several times. There are a handful of crude references made to male and female body parts. The leader of the 410 is named Tuck. And his name gets spelled out as a wink at the f-word: "Tuck You."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Adults drink wine, champagne and mixed drinks at a school fundraiser. A hip-hop song glamorizes Hennessy.
Other Negative Elements
The hip-hop tunes in the soundtrack include repeated—though often hard to make out—references to "booty" and backsides.
How She Move. Stomp the Yard. You Got Served. These contemporary dance movies, and their similar storylines, blur seamlessly one into the next.
It usually starts something like this: We meet the hero, someone who's still reeling from the unexpected death of a loved one (or some other inner-city misfortune). Then our hero must use the only tools at his or her disposal—a great body, emerging charisma and uncanny dancing skills—to recruit a crew and take on the competitive world of street dancing for money and/or respect.
Step Up and now Step Up 2 the Streets try their hardest to follow that pattern, emphasizing new collections of beautiful, tightly toned physiques and the freshest, most jaw-droppingly acrobatic urban dance moves.
The only real break from this well-established formula is the fact that Step Up 2 seems a bit more clean-cut than some of its cousins. The cast still wears telltale do-rags and side-cocked hats—visual shorthand for inner-city hipness. But they come off as a touch too neat and tidy to be real. I'm not complaining, mind you. But it is sort of like spraying graffiti on an alley wall ... with a stencil and a drop cloth.
There aren't any drug sales, dark alley killings and steamily carnal hookups here. Criminal activity is limited to unlawful dancing in a subway car. And it all ends with a kiss in the rain and a soaring orchestral score. This is cut-and-paste sugar fluff that's designed to make teen girls coo, "He was so cute!" and the rest of us wonder, "How did they do that back-flip-spin-on-their-head thing?"
That's not to say that this is High School Musical: The Streets, though. No, there's a lot more pelvis thrusting and booty shaking than any HSM title might allow. Sexy gyrations are performed in various climes (the rain-drenched conclusion leaves few curves to the imagination) and states of semi-undress. In fact, Andie's everyday street wear alone is enough to earn the movie's PG-13 rating as the camera swoops in to showcase her abs and cleavage.
So, while this is Disneyfied for the genre, it's still crazier and sexier than most of what comes out of the Mouse House.