"Step Up" is unabashedly composed of every possible dance movie cliché. There's the girl (Jenna Dewan of "Take the Lead") who desperately needs a partner for the most important audition of her life (to get into the Maryland School of the Arts), who's paired with the kid from the wrong side of the tracks (Channing Tatum of "She's the Man"), who is raw, but brother, can he dance. There's the rivalry among those vying for a coveted spot, class tensions, the eventual love affair and breakup, and the challenge to rise above it all for the love of dance. It's all strung together by scenes wherein, for no reason at all, everyone dances -- every kind of dance, from break to ballet -- brilliantly, with youth, vigor and passion. And it's great, even when it's silly, which is often. Starring Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Mario, Drew Sidora and Rachel Griffiths. Directed by Anne Fletcher. Written by Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg. Produced by Patrick Wachsberger, Erik Feig, Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo. Running time: 98 min
It would be easy to take shots at "Step Up," another in a long line of youthful dance movies that go at least as far back as "Fame." Before that, the singing and dancing in movie musicals would tell the story like dialogue, usually against music that did not exist in the scene. In modern-day dance movies, the kids dance just for the hell of it, often in large synchronized groups, with music that's not only in their heads. Since "Fame," there have been occasional dance movies that hooked themselves in the zeitgeist and resonated, whether in hindsight they deserved to or not; "Footloose," "Flashdance" and "Dirty Dancing" are three that come to mind. "Step Up" may very well belong in this tier of the dance movie canon.