A note to future generations: When relieved of an interracial element, the snooty-dancer-meets-street-dancer musical romance (think: Save the Last Dance) loses much of its resonance. I'm writing this down because we're all probably going to forget about Step Up pretty soon. I can be generous with a movie that dares bring together Rachel Griffiths (used for her credibility as an imperious art-school principal with plunging sweaters) and Heavy D. (as the owner of a Baltimore chop shop), and I will agree that leading dude Channing Tatum dances his white-boy ass off. But the movie is so awkward, so painfully intent on teaching its characters life lessons every few minutes, that it forgets to be trashy, and movies about prissy rich girls in love with underwear-model bad boys serving community probation as school janitors should be a little trashy.
This is the kind of movie where the characters continually remind one another "We've only got one chance to show them who we are!" and then rehearse in montage. The inspirational messages about teenage self-improvement are as subtle and nuanced as Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's collision with Jupiter in 1994.