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Step Up

The formulaic plot centers on the cultural and romantic fireworks that occur between rough-hewn Tyler (Channing Tatum), a street-savvy kid from the rough side of Baltimore, and Nora (Jenna Dewan), a refined, upper-class young woman studying dance at a tony school of the arts.

The pair comes into contact when Tyler, whose street credentials are established in an opening scene in which he is the only white kid at a black party, breaks into the school with his best friends Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Mac's younger brother, Skinny (De'Shawn Washington), to commit petty vandalism. Naturally, Tyler is sentenced to perform 200 hours of community service at the school.

Going about his janitorial duties with a surly efficiency under the watchful eye of the stern school director (Rachel Griffiths), he finds himself besotted with the gorgeous Nora, whose boyfriend/dance partner has injured himself just as she was preparing her senior showcase. In steps the naturally talented Tyler, who promptly sexes up her modern dance routines with his hip-hop-fueled energy.

The couple finds themselves increasingly attracted to each other, even while their burgeoning relationship becomes threatened by their class differences. The suspense mounts, or not, as the big showcase looms closer.

Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg's screenplay doesn't miss a beat in its approximation of familiar elements, including the melodramatic fate of one of the principal characters. Predictable in every respect, the story line mainly serves as an excuse for a series of exuberant dance routines, thankfully choreographed by Fletcher to show off the dancers' entire forms rather than just flashing body parts.

Tatum, channeling Eminem in "8 Mile," is a reasonably charismatic and highly physical young lead, though his underplaying proves monotonous at times. He's well matched by the beautiful Dewan, who reveals her extensive music video experience with her skillful dancing. R&B star Mario and Drew Sidora are appealing as fellow students, and Heavy D lends the proceedings some gravitas in a brief supporting role. Griffiths, so wonderful in "Six Feet Under," is wasted here as the school head, providing further evidence of the disparity in the quality of roles for talented actresses between television and studio features.

Tech credits are fine, and if the film's gritty look seems familiar, it's because director of photography Michael Seresin also lensed the standard bearer of the genre, "Fame." The hip-hop-heavy musical score consists of cuts from the likes of Yung Joc, Ciara, Chris Brown, Youngloodz and Sean Paul, among others.

Director: Anne Fletcher
Screenwriters: Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg
Story: Duane Adler
Producers: Patrick Wachsberger, Erik Feig, Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot
Executive Producers: Bob Hayward, David Garrett, John H. Starke
Director of Photography: Michael Seresin
Production designer: Shepherd Frankel
Editor: Nancy Richardson
Costume designer: Alix Hester
Music: Aaron Zigman
Cast:
 Tyler Gage: Channing Tatum
 Nora Clark: Jenna Dewan
 Mac Carter: Damaine Radcliff
 Skinny Carter: De'Shawn Washington
 Miles Darby: Mario
 Lucy Avila: Drew Sidora
 Director Gordon: Rachel Griffiths
 Omar: Heavy D
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