Sunday, April 27, 2014

Step Up


Hello everyone. This is Mrs. Norman Maine. My, you can't imagine how good it feels to utter those immortal words again. It's been far too long and I know all of my fans out there in the dark have just been frantic at my recent absence from stage, screen and tabloid. I swear, it's not my fault. I have been, shall we say, indisposed in recent months.

As you may recall, I was furiously working with the creators of 'The Lord of the Rings: The Musical' to revamp the part of Galadriel for me when last I posted here. There were some artistic disagreements regarding the big second act tap number for the character and I had a teensy little blow up with the director and needed to leave the theater to cool off. I walked down the street to a lovely little falafel restaurant and was just sitting down to a nice plate of hummus served by Hassan when the entire place erupted into a bevy of flak jacketed men with submachine guns. Everyone in the place was herded into a van (my protestations must not have been heard) and then transferred to some sort of transport plane. I ended up being dropped off at a dreary tropical resort called Gitney's or Gitmo's or something like that where I was given a rather squalid little room without much in the way of amenities (and no room service) for what seemed like months. Occasionally, some men would come in and ask me incomprehensible questions about bombs. I could, of course tell them nothing as I am not in the explosives business, rather that of high fashion and culture.

I'll continue my adventures later, suffice it to say that I am glad to be back at Chateau Maine and settled down again with Normy and the cats. We decided we had better celebrate my return with a trip to the local Cineplex and I thought what could be better than a dance movie. We tried to find a current film celebrating the art of tap dancing, but none were playing locally so we had to make do with Step Up, a new film from director Anne Fletcher about dance and diversity in a Baltimore performing arts high school.

Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), a young thug of indeterminate ethnicity from the Baltimore projects, decides to amuse himself one evening by breaking into the Maryland School of the Arts together with his hoodlum pals Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and his little brother Skinny (De'Shawn Washington). While there, they engage in some wanton theatrical vandalism (A scene quite painful to someone like myself who has trod many a happy hour upon the boards) and Tyler is caught by security. As a juvenile offender (although Mr. Tatum looks every one of his twenty six years), Tyler is sentenced to community service at the school with the custodian under the watchful eye of the Director (a slumming Rachael Griffiths). Here, he meets Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan), a promising dancer who needs to come up with something original for her senior showcase. Sure enough, sparks start to fly and Tyler's street moves fuse with her ballet training into a Debbie Allenesque production number while they each learn something from the other and various uninteresting subplots spin off in the background involving minor characters about whom we do not care.

When the film sticks to dance, it mainly works. Ms. Dewan is obviously a trained dancer and Mr. Tatum moves well, if a little clumsily. They partner each other well and look good together and the film does show us how dance is a form of physical communication and poetry. The chemistry ends the minute they leave the dance floor. Neither is a terribly accomplished actor and their romantic young love scenes are somewhat painful. Mr. Tatum, in particular, seems to believe that wrinkling his forehead and walking like a Neanderthal with a hemorrhoid problem is a step away from Brando's method. They are not helped by a formulaic screenplay by Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg which telegraphs each plot development from miles away and which asks the young actors to all talk like bargain basement Eminem clones.

The film strives to be a Fame or a Flashdance for the new millennium, but the silly ultimate dance sequence (which seems to have been lifted from the Broadway version of Carrie) and the badly written subplots put it more on a par with that other gem of an early 80s musical, Staying Alive. It does have some fun modern fashions on the high school students that look completely out of their budgets and a catchy soundtrack, but it's certainly not worth evening prices at the cinema.

LED Belt buckle. Mouthy African-American juvenile. Gratuitous twin violinists. Underused Rachel Griffiths. Cheating British musician. Pick-up basketball game. Drive by shooting. Snooty townhouse mother. 

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