Most sequels are unnecessary, but “Step Up 2 the Streets” takes it to a new level. It is a follow-up to the 2006 hit “Step Up,” and that film’s star, Channing Tatum, does appear in one scene to pass the torch. But other than that, it’s no more connected to “Step Up” than it is to “Save the Last Dance” or “Honey” or “Stomp the Yard” or “How She Move” or “You Got Served” or “Take the Lead” or “Feel the Noise” or any of the other teenage street-dancing movies that have proliferated in recent years.
It’s no better than any of those movies, either, which is to say it’s laughably simple and underwritten, with stock characters and a by-the-numbers storyline. But I don’t really mind this sub-genre anymore, now that I’ve gotten used to it. All the scenes where people aren’t dancing tend to be forgettable, but the dance sequences are energetically choreographed and performed.
This time our heroine is Andie (Briana Evigan), a rowdy Baltimore high-schooler who spends all her time with The 410, a street-dancing squad specializing in impromptu public performances designed to surprise and unnerve onlookers. (They spray a little graffiti now and then, too.) Faced with the choice of either straightening up her act or being sent to Texas to live with her aunt, she chooses the former and enrolls in the Maryland School of the Arts, a “Fame”-style performance academy.
You may well imagine that Andie’s freestyle dance moves raise eyebrows at MSA, particularly the eyebrows of Blake Collins (Will Kemp), the school’s traditionalist director with the strangled American accent. (If the British actor can’t sound American, maybe you should just let him be British. I’m just sayin’.) But Collins’ younger brother, Chase (Robert Hoffman), who’s either a student or fellow administrator, I’m not sure which, likes Andie’s style.
For a while Andie is caught between two worlds: the staid, stuffy realm of MSA and her rehearsals with The 410, run by a thuggish taskmaster named Tuck (Black Thomas). Eventually she is banished from the street troupe for having “turned her back” on them (going to a good school and making something of yourself = turning your back on your friends), so Chase helps her start her own street-dancing team composed of fellow MSA students. Turns out she’s not the only one there with freestyle skills that have been suppressed by the academy’s rigidity. The new squad, populated by hastily introduced misfits and weirdos, must practice in secret lest Collins find out. They’re like Dumbledore’s Army!
The MSA crew posts a viral video online in which they taunt Tuck and The 410; it’s pretty funny, actually. I also got a laugh out of this exchange between Andie and Chase:
CHASE: There’s a lot you don’t know about me.
ANDIE: Which is surprising, considering how much you talk about yourself.
And then I thought: Wait, no he doesn’t. His character is as ill-defined as everyone else’s. Apparently he was intended to be a conceited ladies’ man. The only indication we have of that, though, is when the dorky-quirky MSA kid named Moose (Adam G. Sevani) shows Andie around the school and he lists Chase as a ladies’ man. Thank goodness for expository characters like Moose, or we wouldn’t know who anyone was.
But first-time feature director Jon Chu and choreographer Hi-Hat (see also: “How She Move”) execute some gnarly dance scenes, culminating in a rain-soaked finale that sizzles with teen-friendly sexual energy. The performers were not chosen for their acting abilities, nor are they called upon to do anything more than address the usual Afterschool Special dilemmas and dramas. It’s all about the dancing, and there’s no denying the skill involved there.
C+ (1 hr., 38 min.; )