Step Up

Critics Consensus

This trite teen romance has too little plot and not enough dancing.



Total Count: 105


Audience Score

User Ratings: 615,661
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Movie Info

An aspiring ballerina from a wealthy family learns some lessons about both dancing and life from a roughneck with soul in this teen drama. Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in a rough section of Baltimore, and has been in and out of trouble with the law most of his life. Finding himself before the judge yet again, Tyler is sentenced to 200 hours of community service, and he ends up mopping floors at the Maryland School of the Arts. Tyler catches the eye of Nora (Jenna Dewan), a gifted ballet student who is trying to incorporate hip-hop moves into her classical routines. None of Nora's fellow students seem to be on the same page as her, but Tyler is a talented street dancer with strength, moves, and enthusiasm. Despite the misgivings of the school's administrators, Nora persuades Tyler to team up with her for a major class project. Tyler gains a new self-respect as he gives in to the discipline of the dance academy, but he wonders if this new opportunity means turning his back on who he really is. Matters become all the more complicated when Tyler and Nora realize they're falling in love. Step Up was the first directorial credit for choreographer Anne Fletcher, who designed dance routines for the films Bring It On, She's All That, and Boogie Nights. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Channing Tatum
as Tyler Gage
Jenna Dewan
as Nora Clark
Damaine Radcliff
as Mac Carter
as Miles Darby
Drew Sidora
as Lucy Avila
Rachel Griffiths
as Director Gordon
Josh Henderson
as Brett Dolan
Deirdre Lovejoy
as Katherine Clark
Jane Beard
as Lena Freeman
Richard Pelzman
as Bill Freeman
De'Shawn Washington
as Skinny Carter
Heavy D
as Omar
Carlyncia Peck
as Mac's Mother
Ryan Sands
as History Teacher
Dominique Boyd
as Omar Party Girl Yvette
Rana Poindexter
as Omar Party Girl 2
Angelica Huesca
as Omar Party Pretty Girl
Franjk Ferrera
as Security Guard
Frank Herzog
as Judge Milton
Natalie Steinberg
as Little Girl Ballerina
Jiehae Park
as Stagehand
Karim Fawzy
as Omar Partier
Tom Quinn
as Music Teacher
Shiloh Monaco
as Piano Player/Finale Orchestra
Sophie Jeanne
as Girl Singer 1/Lucy Back-Up Singer 1
Robyn Norris
as Girl Singer 2/Lucy Back-Up Singer 2
Jeannie Ortega
as Girl Singer 3
Damien Escobar
as Violinist
Tourie Escobar
as Violinist
Jeremiah Griffin
as Lucy Back-Up Singer 3
Caitlin Kinney
as Ballerina/Dance Class Daner
Kevin Eugene Green
as Basketball Player
Javes Wiggins
as Basketball Player
Steve E. Carter
as Basketball Player
Donald Rheubottom
as Court Room Sheriff
Donald Waugh
as Fruit Vendor
Michael Seresin
as Custodian
Simon Longmore
as Omar's Chop Shop Guy
Leigh Bender
as Finale Orchestra
Rachel Dickey
as Finale Orchestra
Brett Frankel
as Finale Orchestra
Mehran Hag
as Finale Orchestra
Rachel Halden
as Finale Orchestra
Erick Heckert
as Finale Orchestra
Caleb Landry Jones
as Finale Orchestra
Veronica Keszthulyi
as Finale Orchestra
Chris Liu
as Finale Orchestra
Sean Nikel
as Finale Orchestra
Wes Wise
as Finale Orchestra
Eli Worth
as Finale Orchestra
as Ballet Dancer
Adrienne Canterna
as Ballet Dancer
Tara Ghassimieh
as Ballet Dancer
Nikkia Parish
as Ballet Dancer
Ryan Rankine
as Ballet Dancer/Dance Class Dancer
Casey Lee Ross
as Ballet Dancer
Emily Bicks
as Dance Class Dancer
Whitney Brown
as Dance Class Dancer/Nora's Finale Dancer
Ashley Canterna
as Dance Class Dancer
Sara Cato
as Dance Class Dancer
Caitlin Gold
as Dance Class Dancer
Shalyce Hemby
as Dance Class Dancer
Stephanie Jingle
as Dance Class Dancer
Rebecca Mejia
as Dance Class Dancer
Joshua Schulteis
as Dance Class Dancer
Anthony M. Carr
as Nora's Finale Dancer
Laura Edwards
as Nora's Finale Dancer/Nighclub Dancer
Christina Jennings
as Omar Party Dancer
Samantha Frampton
as Nora's Finale Dancer
Adam Gericke
as Nora's Finale Dancer
Antonio Hudnell
as Nora's Finale Dancer
Julie Nelson
as Nora's Finale Dancer/Dancer
Samantha Zweben
as Nora's Finale Dancer
Mitch Cohn
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Jonathan Finlayfon
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Daniel Jones
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Corey King
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Jermaine Parrish
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Steven Rodriguez
as Colin/Lucy's Band
William Dontay Spence
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Clarence Ward
as Colin/Lucy's Band
Derek Brown
as Nightclub Dancer
Shawn Michelle Cosby
as Nightclub Dancer
Charles Hawkins
as Hip-Hop Dancer/Nightclub Dancer
Adam Shankman
as Nightclub Dancer
Andrew Johnson
as Audition Dancer
Christin Jennings
as Hip-Hop Dancer/Omar Party Dancer
Zachary Woodlee
as Nightclub Dancer
Jamal Sims
as Nightclub Dancer
Melissa Emrico
as Nightclub Dancer
Sabrina Furr
as Nightclub Dancer
George Hubela
as Nightclub Dancer/ Hip-Hop Dancer
Joseph Nontanovan
as Nightclub Dancer/Hip-Hop Dancer
Jameson Perry
as Nightclub Dancer/ Hip-Hop Dancer
Ashley Phipps
as Nightclub Dancer
Denise Piane
as Nightclub Dancer
Sarah Satow
as Nightclub Dancer
Taylor Walker
as Nightclub Dancer
John Alix
as Audition Dancer
Mark Fangmeyer
as Audition Dancer
Kellie Corbett
as Hip-Hop Dancer
Sherray Gibson
as Hip-Hop Dancer
Lance Guillermo
as Omar Party Dancer/ Hip-Hop Dancer
Monica Warr
as Hip-Hop Dancer/ Omar Party Dancer
Roddy Carter
as Omar Party Dancer
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News & Interviews for Step Up

Critic Reviews for Step Up

All Critics (105) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (84)

Audience Reviews for Step Up

  • Jul 27, 2014
    The surprise commercial success of Save the Last Dance ushered in a wave of films focussed around street dance and hip-hop. Where classic-era Hollywood dance films were dominated by ballroom, ballet and tap dancing, the 2000s gave us film after film in which impressive street or hip-hop choreography came face-to-face with decades-old romantic and dramatic conventions, with varying degrees of success. At the more mainstream end of this wave we have Step Up, the first in a series of five films (to date) which combine predictable plots with often jaw-dropping dancing. But where its sequels increasingly sacrificed narrative for the sake of set-pieces, the film that started it all gets a good balance and is the most focussed of all the series. It's hardly game-changing in its construction, but it is surprisingly heartwarming and comes across as more genuine than you might expect. It's very easy to view dance films as essentially a series of set-pieces held together by a threadbare story. Even in the so-called golden days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, around ten times the effort seemed to be expended on the dancing than on the events that made them dance in the first place. As I argued in my review of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it is possible to enjoy these films as artistic endeavours rather than narrative ones, but for the less freeform among us, even the best leave us with an unsatisying niggle. The best dance films, in any sub-genre, succeed because they are not really about dancing. The Red Shoes is about the boundary between fantasy and reality, and the tension between creativity and common sense. Black Swan is about the need to embrace one's dark side in striving for artistic perfection, even at the cost of one's sanity. Even Strictly Ballroom, Baz Luhrmann's raucous debut, is less about ballroom dancing than the fight against orthodoxy and how the fear of failure cripples people. Step Up may not boast the richly-layered themes of any of these offerings, nor is it as visually ravishing. But it does belong in the same camp, since its dancing is used to explore ideas and character traits rather than just serve as a distraction. Instead of dazzling you with MTV-style cuts and empty, shallow bombast, the film is an altogether gentler beast, whose moments of posturing are tame and infrequent. Despite not having the visual splendour of Luhrmann, Darren Aronofsky or Powell and Pressburger, Step Up is still a decent-looking film. Michael Seresin has spent much of his career working with Alan Parker, lensing all of his films between Bugsy Malone and Come See The Paradise. You won't find here any of the evocative colour shifts and shadows that he achieved in Angel Heart, but the colour palette is inviting and his use of wide angles is judicious. Much like Charles Walters, director of High Society, Anne Fletcher comes from a background in choreography. There are occasions when we get the impression that the sets have been deliberately designed to be as big and spacious as possible, to allow more room for the dancing and more scope for the camera movements. But while Walters ultimately failed to tell his story in an interesting way, Fletcher has enough grasp of cinematic narrative to hold our attention. The set-pieces in Step Up are of a very high quality. While less kinetic or feverish than in some of the sequels, there's still an awful lot of physical effort that goes into the various sequences. As a showcase for how exciting dancing can be, the film is on a par with some of the classic Hollywood offerings I mentioned. Channing Tatum's appearance doesn't suggest that he would be a good dancer, but he both looks and feels the part, and his deadpan nature plays into the hands of the role, unlike his later performance in The Eagle. The story of Step Up, by contrast, is incredibly conventional. It's the classic story of two people from completely different backgrounds whose only means to get what they want is to team up. Over the course of the film they swap tips and interests, gradually grow to like and respect each other, and after a brief cooling of their relationship, they decide they really need each other and triumph. This plot is among the most well-worn in film, but it is applied in a somewhat engaging way. Step Up uses its two conflicting styles of music to reflect the flaws of the individual characters. Tyler's laid-back, devil-may-care attitude gives him the freedom to take his dance moves wherever they choose to go, but he lacks the ability to focus which could make him potentially dance for a living. Nora, by contrast, is a prisoner of rigidity, being so tightly bound by the rules and traditions of classical music and dance that she can neither innovate nor stimulate. The relationship between our two main characters is a breaking down of barriers, with both sides learning to respect traits of the other. Tyler not only understands responsibility, but he actively seeks it, eventually commiting to putting on a killer show and making a living. Nora learns to loosen up and have fun, which makes her dancing more natural and appealing. Tatum and Jenna Dewan have good chemistry together, which eventually led to them getting married in 2009. There is also a nice comment in the film about how snobbery and tradition can actually put off the most talented people in a given field. Tyler's natural talent is plain for all to see (except himself), and yet it's hard to imagine him being given a level playing field with the more privileged members of the school. The film does, however, become a little more cartoony in this respect, with Nora's dance partner Brett being very thinly-written. Step Up also deserves credit for maintaining control over its tone. Many films which are melodramatic in nature feel the need to inject some kind of darkness partway through their plots in a desperate bid to be taken seriously. While the film isn't as nuanced as Fame in this regard, the dramatic twist involving the younger boy is handled delicately, so that it compliments the drama rather than pulling us out of it. Step Up is a surprisingly decent dance film, which acquits itself perfectly well as both a physical showcase and a piece of storytelling. Aspects of it are cartoony or melodramatic, and it's hardly the most original or accomplished piece of cinema around. But it is a great deal more agreeable than many would lead us to believe. If only its narrative standards had been maintained for the sequels.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 10, 2013
    The original will always be my favourite.
    Beth M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 03, 2013
    Formulaic and cliched, Step Up is a familiar tale, yet the high-energy dances and likable characters make for a solidly entertaining film. When a street thug is sentenced to community service at an art school he gets to explore his passion for dance when one of the students finds herself in desperate need of a partner. The story's well told and has more depth than it would appear to. And the cast, led by Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, give fair performances that work for this kind of material. But the main draw is the dance choreography, which is amazing; it uses a good mixture of modern and street dance without being corny. Some of the elements of the film don't work, but Step Up managers to deliver a fun and upbeat film.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2011
    Step Up was a cliche romance flick, and although it has some great dancing in it, that does not make up for its old and cliche plot, boring performances, and it seems like we have seen this kind of movie a hundred times before.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer

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