Directed by John M. Chu
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 94 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: July 15, 2008
Review Date: July 8, 2008
Say what you will about the “let’s put on a show” musicals of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. They may be almost sixty years old, but they’re no less entertaining than today’s modern counterparts, most recently illustrated by John Chu’s Step Up 2 the Streets. The youthful energy, the music of the day, the unmistakable talent: it’s all there to see in those old MGM shows where swing was king or in today’s cinematic world where hip-hop reigns supreme. The music has changed, but the song remains stubbornly the same.
And the story here is as hackneyed as it was in Mickey and Judy’s day: troubled high school teen Andie (Briana Evigan) gets kicked out of school and is on the verge of being shipped off to relatives in Texas when she gets one more chance to make it in Baltimore by being allowed to audition for the prestigious MSA (Maryland School of the Arts). She’s a knockout street dancer, one of the stars of the reigning street crew “410.” Though hip-hop doesn’t quite jibe with ballet and jazz that is part of the school’s curriculum, head of the school Blake Collins (Will Kemp) decides there is enough raw talent there to give her a shot. Blake’s younger brother Chase (Robert Hoffman) is also into street dancing and longs to form an MSA crew and enter it in the annual street dance competition known (unsurprisingly) as “The Streets.” But Andie’s old crew members don’t like the freaks she’s hanging out with at her new school, and she’s summarily dismissed by their head dancer Tuck (Black Thomas). So, can Andie and Chase find enough talent at MSA to mount a challenge to the established kingpins of street dance?
The plot is wafer thin and completely predictable (script by Toni Ann Johnson and Karen Barna), but the obvious reason for the film’s existence is the plentiful array of street dances that fill the film’s 94 minutes. Yes, there’s a final dance-off between the two rival crews (was that ever in doubt?), but truth be told, John Chu’s direction of the dance sequences doesn’t quite have the galvanizing force and consistent wow moments that can be found in Ian Rashid’s similar themed hip-hop dance movie from 2008 How She Move. The routines here are more splintered in their construction, the moves are filmed too much from the waist up robbing us of much of the interesting footwork, and editing is herky-jerky in a distracting way. Chu does stage one dancing sequence of surprising elegance and lilt: an impromptu salsa number involving multiple couples at a backyard cookout. More expressive and more interesting than any of the break dancing, hip-hopping, stepping, and locking that make up the majority of the choreography, this moment is truly a special one in the film, beautifully showcasing the smooth moves of the actors and the blossoming love between the film’s two primary protagonists.
Both Briana Evigan and Robert Hoffman have plenty of slick moves to show and make for a lovely romantic couple even if they do appear to be a few years too old for high school. Adam G. Sevani’s Moose is the typically nerdy goof with hidden talents while Cassie Ventura’s Sarah is the closest thing the film has to a villainess. Fans of the original Step Up will be thrilled to see that movie’s breakout star Channing Tatum in a flashy number with trampolines. There’s also a winning romantic ballad “We All Want the Same Thing” which is particularly enjoyable.
Step Up 2 the Streets will entertain those folks who can’t get enough of step dancing, but if I were having to choose between which of the two hip-hop movies this year I’d want to see, I’d go with How She Move.
The film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio is presented on this Blu-ray disc in 1080p using the AVC codec. The film’s desaturated look doesn’t aid the movie in looking as three dimensional as those Blu-rays whose colors pop with more fully saturated hues, but more problematic are the erratic black levels and some occasional edge ringing which sometimes draw attention to themselves. Sharpness is very good, however, and the dingy look is probably right for the gritty street feel the director is going for. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Though the liner notes claim the disc contains a Dolby TrueHD track, the audio is actually PCM 5.1 (6.9 Mbps), and it’s strong with all the hip-hop music that punctuates the mix (especially the almost endlessly throbbing LFE channel). There isn’t much use made of the surrounds for ambient effects, however, which is a bit surprising and something of a letdown. Crowd noises and rain (the final number is done in the rain) might have been more interestingly compiled to give some life to the surround channels between dance breaks. There is also a tendency of some of the more inexperienced actors to mumble a bit which the music tends to overwhelm.
The disc showcases 8 deleted scenes (including two complete step routines by Jabbawockeez and West Coast Riders that are only excerpted in the movie) which can be played with or without director John Chu’s introductions. They’re presented in 1080i and last a combined total of 22 ½ minutes.
“Thru Fresh Eyes: The Making of Step Up 2” is a 12 ½ minute overview of the preparations for filming by first time feature director John Chu. There are also interviews with the principal cast members who express how important dancing is to their lives. The featurette is presented in 1080p.
“Outlaws of Hip Hop - Meet the ‘410’ ” is a 5-minute introduction to the members of the 410 street crew and their choreographer Hi-Hat. The featurette is also in 1080p.
6 music videos, five of which feature music from the film and one music outtake, are offered in 480i. The viewer may watch all six in one 22 ½ minute chunk, or watch each one separately. They are “Low” (3:50), “Ching-a-ling” (4:06), “Killa” (4:31), “Hypnotized” (3:12), “Let It Go” (3:27), and the outtake “Is It You?
Star Robert Hoffman and selected cast members play a video prank on an unsuspecting convenience store clerk in a 2-minute vignette.
I found 3 Easter Eggs by not even looking hard: background dancers on the set (1 ¼ minutes), Adam kisses Cassie (1 ½ minutes), and some post wrap dancing (1 ½ minutes). All are in 1080p.
There are previews on the disc for a series of Miramax Blu-ray releases, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
Step Up 2 the Streets is another hip-hop dance extravaganza. If teen angst combined with slick street dancing is your thing, by all means give this Blu-ray a spin.