Sunday, November 05, 2006

Step Up

White Boys Can Dance?

I think I'm fast becoming a fan of the dance genre. The moves and the music just gets to me, be it Mad Hot Ballroom styled documentaries, or street hip hop, or a fusion of both, like in the recent Take The Lead. Step Up is one such movie, full of youthful energy that makes you want to stand up and do a jig or two.

The storyline though is nothing to shout about. It stuck to formula with leads that don't get along, and yet fitting like a glove as they heat up both the dance floor as well as one another's hearts. It's your usual bad-boy-good-girl pairing, with inspiration rubbing off each other, and the usual white-trash and upper strata of society mix and exploration of differences, or maybe perhaps, some similarities. Like its dance moves, the story's a fusion of improvisation and structure, so despite the tinge of familiarity, you'll probably forgive it as it allows you to do a quantum leap to get headlong into the scheme of things.

But what struck me is how similar this movie's structure and lead character are to Eminem's 8 Mile, with the same mould of a "white rabbit" boy, from the underclass, trying to triumph against odds that he faces in his quest to do something worthwhile with his life. Replace 8 Mile's freestyle rapping with street hip hop dance, and you get Channing Tatum's Tyler Gage, the dude from the hood with hardcore dance attitude yo!

This bro I can tell is gonna heat up the screens for the ladies in da house. You can hear silent female sighs each time he comes on to do his thing. If you find him familiar, yep, he was playing opposite Amanda Byrnes in She's The Man as the captain of the football team. Step Up's other lead is Jenna Dewan as the rich girl Nora Clark pursuing a dance career, and has to come up with some slick choreographed moves for her final year project to gain the attention of scouts from the industry. No prizes if you think you know who she has to turn to for help. There are various supporting characters, but I'd like to highlight R&B singer Mario's stint as a music producer-student who has this knack of rocking da house from tunes spun from his macbook (yep, product placement).

But before you dismiss this as yet another run of the mill dance movie, it's actually both adequately entertaining, and fused with a right amount of drama, for character development purposes. Pursuing of dreams, of living up to promises made, of being there for friends, these are but some of the tired but tested sub plots that make its usual rounds in the movie.

As always, you never really get to see the entire dance sequence during rehearsals, until the finale where it's full-dress-show-off time. And director Anne Fletcher, who choreographed moves for plenty of movies, pulls this one off brilliantly. It was well worth the wait, even if it all ended in a saccharine sweet manner.

So You Think You Can Dance?

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