Jenna Dewan and Tyler Channing star in Step Up, which opens in theatres today.



Step Up

Stars: Jenna Dewan, Channing Tatum

Director: Anne Fletcher

Rating: PG

** (out of five)

Step Up is one of those prefabricated movies where every character, every progression of the plot, and every line of dialogue is already a given. It offers no surprises; it can’t, really, because that might tamper with a proven formula. The only question, then, is whether it can do anything interesting with the material.

And for the first hour or so, it looks like Step Up actually might. Oh, it’s an utterly conventional production, and choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher is useless at conveying a sense of atmosphere, or the passage of time, through her visuals. She’s also not so hot at shooting coverage, which means that scenes aren’t so much crisply edited as slapped together.

But Fletcher’s a good choreographer, and the movie’s dance sequences really are something — especially when they feature her mismatched stars, beefy Channing Tatum, of She’s The Man, and slender Jenna Dewan, from Take The Lead.

The frequently electrical clash of their physical styles more than makes up for the, um, deficiencies in the mechanical screenplay, which borrows in equal parts from Fame (without the interfering teachers), Save The Last Dance (without the interracial component) and Romeo And Juliet (without the iambic pentameter) without ever quite rising to the level of its source material.

This overlong pastiche goes seriously awry in its second hour, as its pleasant romantic rhythms are abruptly abandoned for a jangle of third-act complications designed to push our would-be partners apart. The thing is, Tatum and Dewan have already proven themselves smarter than the script’s manufactured obstacles; it insults their characters, and the movie’s target audience, to suddenly turn them into dupes of the script. Someone should have stepped up for them in pre-production.