I blame 'Step Up' for starting Channing Tatum off on the wrong foot. Sure he has some smooth moves in the movie, but what happened was something that took six years to be corrected (and truthfully, it still hasn't been fully resolved). At some point a studio executive or casting agent saw Tatum and exclaimed, "Look at those chiseled abs and that firm jawline. He's a romantic lead for sure! Or, better yet, we could stick him in generic action movies and make him take off his shirt a lot." So, what followed was a string of movies where Tatum more or less became a perpetual punching bag for people who thought he was a tool of the Hollywood system. A guy with good looks and heinous acting skills who got parts in movies because he looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch model. It wasn't until this year we realized with movies like '21 Jump Street,' 'Haywire,' and 'Magic Mike' that given the right material and director, Tatum is actually a good actor (the exception to this is 'The Vow' which pushed him back into the stereotypical "all the girls will swoon" romantic lead).
I didn't mean for this review to lead-off with a diatribe on Channing Tatum's hidden acting talents, but it's important to point out, because even though he may be bursting out of the rigid shell he's been acting in for so many years, 'Step Up' isn't really a movie you'll want to revisit. Even if you've found out in recent months that you, maybe-kinda-sorta like him now.
'Step Up' follows a tired formula. A kid, from dubious beginnings, is thrust into a world of the rich and privileged. He's given a chance to prove himself and everyone lives happily ever after.
Tyler (Tatum) is a foster kid who has never had much of anything in his life. He steals cars with his friends and hustles people in basketball to make a living. He's careless and thoughtless. One night he breaks into a school with his friends and they set about vandalizing the place. Tyler is caught and is given a couple hundred hours of community service for his crime, to be carried out at the very school he vandalized.
Tyler's hidden talent is dancing. He busts out the moves at local clubs, wowing the people around him. Coincidentally, the school he's serving his sentence at just happens to be a prestigious school for the arts. Even more coincidentally, Tyler meets a girl named Nora (Jenna Dewan), a dancer whose partner just got injured right in time for Tyler to take his place as her rehearsal partner.
Like so many other dancing movies the rest of the film can be spelled out before you even stick it in, along with the obligatory shooting of a side character just to drive home the fact that Tyler comes from a really rough neighborhood.
Montage after montage pass as hip-hop music bellows. The dancing is curiously left in the background as the painful plot hits every stereotypical note that it possibly can. Nora even has a douche bag boyfriend, so we won't feel bad when Tyler steals her away from him. It all works out as smooth as it possibly can. A movie that would like you to think it's about people overcoming their adversities, when it's really an excuse to show Channing Tatum dance for an hour and a half. 'Step Up' feels like it was lifted directly from 2001's 'Save the Last Dance' and it's just as annoyingly predictable. Tatum might be finally finding his way with his most recent films, but 'Step Up' is evidence of why it took him so long to get here.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Touchstone release comes to Blu-ray on 50GB Blu-ray Disc. It's housed in a standard size Blu-ray keepcase and is indicated as being region free.
Besides a few soft spots, I thought that the debut of 'Step Up' on Blu-ray looked about as good as a movie from 2006 should look in 1080p. For the most part the movie is full of strong detail from pores and freckles visible in close-ups to the individual hardwood grains of the dance floor in the mid-range shots.
The movie looks like it has a fine layer of grain, helping lend it a cinematic feel. DNR has been kept at bay here. Lines are concise. Colors are strong, especially when the movie makes the odd decision to bathe Tatum and Dewan in neon blue light during the ending dance number, making them appear as gigantic dancing Smurfs. Even though the blue is off-putting, it's still presented in a very vivid and electric way. Shadows and nighttime scenes are well-delineated. Shadows accentuate body contours and add visual depth to the image. The transfer is also technically proficient since artifacts are nowhere to be seen. The movie really does look pretty good.
Hip-hop beats infuse the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The movie is laden with strong LFE that produces beat after beat during the endless montages and dance numbers. The thumping bass may very well make you feel like you stumbled into a dance club. The rear channels do a good job picking up all of the surrounding sound. There's a scene where Tyler and Nora are at a dance club and a dance party breaks out. People hoot and holler as a group dance forms in the middle of the crowd. The rear channels pick up all the ambient sound producing a very lifelike surround sound experience. With the mix's clear and intelligible dialogue, and no technical hiccups to report, it's safe to say that fans will indeed enjoy the way this movie sounds since being given the high-def treatment.
If you've seen one dance movie it feels like you've seen them all. 'Step Up' follows in the same dance steps that many movies have done before. There's nothing new here, but you already knew that. The movie does feature a nice looking video presentation coupled with a club-like surround sound feeling. I still couldn't ever recommend this movie to someone, so this is still for fans only.