What better way to approach a sequel to 2006's "Step Up
," director Jon M. Chu (2011's "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) and screenwriting duo Toni Ann Johnson and Karen Barna probably figured, than to simply reverse the plot and the sex of the main character? Thus, instead of Channing Tatum's Tyler Gage being the wayward, orphaned teen, it is Briana Evigan's (2009's "Sorority Row
") Andie West who has been left in the custody of a family friend after her beloved mother dies of cancer. Andie, like Tyler, has street dancing skills, but it is not until she tries to avoid being sent to Texas and enrolls in the Maryland School of the Arts that her horizons expand. She befriends and flirts with more classically trained classmate Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman), and then, after getting shunned by her 410 dance crew for missing practice, decides to form her own with fellow school peers. Whereas Tyler was brought in to dance at a school recital, you see, Andie lures her gaggle of new friends to compete in an outside, R&B-flavored dance-off. Completely different!
The aptly-named "Step Up 2: The Streets" is neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, but just about what one would expect. Watching them for the first time in close proximity, their transparent and derivative schemes show all the more glaringly. Beyond that, it is simply difficult to relate to the pettiness of its side characters, who, here, get angry with Andie and drop her as a dance member and friend for, you know, trying to better herself and get a proper education. Meanwhile, the importance of winning this street dance competition is a head-scratcher since there doesn't even seem to be a trophy or prize. At least they'll earn the respect of the other fleet-footed groups. Thank goodness for small favors.
In what was her first lead role, Briana Evigan has a likable, relatable quality that suits the forever bare-midriffed Andie, while Adam G. Sevani (who went on to star in 2010's "Step Up 3
" and 2012's "Step Up: Revolution") is a charmer as the goofy but talented Moose. Channing Tatum (2012's "Magic Mike
") also appears in a welcome cameo, showing up Andie at a club with his hot dance stylings before pulling some strings to earn her an audition at his alma mater. Additionally, the camaraderie between Andie and her new makeshift crew is pleasing, if undernourished, while the climactic showdown set in a downpour of rain at least provides some striking visuals and choreography. What it all adds up to, however, is negligible and rather forgettable. "Step Up 2: The Streets" is competent and too innocent in its own way to strongly dislike, but there also isn't much to push it above mediocrity. There's more substance in cotton candy.