Whatever the genre, any film pitched at teens needs to be special to have a life outside of its target audience. And urban dance romance 'Step Up' has its work cut out to make an impact on even those viewers. Not only does it follow in the wake of 'Save the Last Dance', 'Honey', 'You Got Served' and 'Take the Lead', it also has a script – from 'Save the Last Dance' writer Duane Adler - which treads on the toes of lots of other movies.
After trespassing with his pals at the Maryland School of the Arts late one night, foster teen Tyler Gage (Tatum) is sentenced to community service as a janitor in the school. A street dancer whose bad attitude hides his insecurities, Tyler catches the eye of Nora Clark (Dewan, who also starred in 'Take the Lead'), one of the school's dance students who is preparing for her final onstage presentation. When Nora's partner is injured her slot at the school's gala show is put in jeopardy, then Tyler offers to step up...
While choreographer-turned-first-time director Anne Fletcher creates some nice dance scenes, 'Step Up' doesn't have much going for it apart from them. With its '8 Mile'-meets-'Fame' storyline, it's a film that lacks imagination and real drama and one which will convince you that you've better telepathic powers than you gave yourself credit for as you guess what's going to happen from scene to scene, such are the clichés on offer.
If you can get over the fact that you're watching two people in their mid-twenties playing High School kids (Tatum in particular looks far too old) don't pat yourself too much on the back, there's plenty of other stodge to digest, with special mention going to the bad boy in the 'hood character Tatum has to play. While he never says "Is it 'cos I is white?" it's a close call.
If high stepping is your thing, you'll probably find this tolerable, but be prepared for countless lines that you've heard before. Shut up and dance indeed.