Tyler (Channing Tatum) is sentenced to community service in the Maryland School of the Arts after he and his partner-in-grand-theft-auto Mac (Damaine Radcliff) vandalize the school. Conveniently, Tyler's a terrific dancer and Nora (Jenna Dewan) needs a new partner.
Big question: Can this familiar plot find a way to dance to its own tune?
Skip it: "Step Up" is so derivative of films like "Dirty Dancing," "Save the Last Dance" and more that it essentially comes pre-choreographed by other movies. There's a killer dance sequence towards the middle, but you'll grow increasingly tired of the flavorless romantic complications and excruciating scenes involving Mac's annoying kid brother, Skinny (De'Shawn Washington).
Catch it: If you need further proof--along with "Stick It" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"--that cinematic punishment for juvenile delinquents has become unbelievably lax.
Bottom line: The dancing-can-motivate-you message of "Step Up" would be no less subtle if the film were called "Follow Your Dreams." You've seen all these steps before, in movies with much better footwork.
Bonus: Movies like "Step Up" and "Take the Lead" have such assertive titles that it won't be long before someone makes, "Dance, Bitch!" Which actually could be a hilarious Dave Chappelle flick.
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed by Anne Fletcher; screenplay by Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg; photographed by Michael Seresin; edited by Nancy Richardson; music by Aaron Zigman; production design by Shepherd Frankel; produced by Patrick Wachsberger, Erik Feig, Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot. A Touchstone Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:38. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo).
Tyler Gage - Channing Tatum
Nora Clark - Jenna Dewan
Mac Carter - Damaine Radcliff
Skinny Carter - De'Shawn Washington
Miles Darby - Dario
Lucy Avila - Drew Sidora
Director Gordon - Rachel Griffiths