Pretty Vacancy: Watching 4 Step Up Films (Nearly) Back-To-Back Part 1


Roughly 15 months ago my former housemates and I shut ourselves in a room on a beautiful sunny day, drew the curtains and watched the first five films from the Fast & Furious franchise back-to-back while I documented the course of the events as a two-part blog post. The end result was kinda funny, kinda silly, kinda sarcastic. All enjoyable kindas.

With that exhausting, memorable experience in mind, I thought it might be fun to try again with some other beleaguered franchise that is taken for granted as bad. Some set of films that, realistically, I simply wouldn’t watch at all under normal circumstances. The Step Up films were an obvious candidate. The dance-off film, lets face it, has yet to achieve anything near credibility. These movies are generally dismissed as the flimsiest of material, earning less respect than the romcom, the video game adaptation or (shudder) the found-footage horror film. I’ve not seen a single one of them, so maybe I’m being too quick to judge? Maybe there’s something more to these movies than meets the eye. It’s doubtful, but I’m about to find out.

Unlike last time, I’m by myself on this one. The first four Step Up films back-to-back (albeit with a bit of an intermission in the middle as I may go out for lunch). I’m slightly hungover, which seems either fitting or like an unnecessary handicap (we’ll see), but I’m primed with movies. I think the appropriate phrase to kick-start this marathon is… IT’S ON.

09:03 am: It begins. Step Up (2006)

09:04: A mash-up of ballet footage with street dancing. Because, y’know, they’re the same. The credits also promise the inclusion of ‘Mario’. Bob Hoskins was in this?

09:07: The kind of dancing at a party that never happens at a party. Holy shitballs, it’s Channing Tatum. He looks so young! His neck isn’t even wider than his head yet.

09:09: B&E. Already. Man, these kids need some structure in their lives. They seem to have broken into the set from A Clockwork Orange where the droogs try to rape that girl. They’re smashing it up. It’s like a remedial homage to Kubrick.

09:14: Tatum looks pensively around his neighbourhood before going to community service at… yup… a school for performing arts. Where you apparently can’t move in the halls for buskers. At regular schools nobody does their homework in the halls…

09:16: Ah. When Tatum slouches in a chair his neck still looks wider than his head. Business as usual.

09:18: He’s wandering around in a daze, drawn to some music, looking like the zombie of a binman.

09:19: You can actually see Tatum thinking about his lines before he has to say them.

09:23: I’m A) already regretting this decision and B) really missing having others around for banter. Although on the plus side I can do this whole thing in my dressing gown in bed. Doesn’t make up for the fact this is happening at all though. Who knew I hated myself this much?

09:25: Gotta stay positive. Gotta stay open-minded. This could all turn around. Tatum mops.

09:28: Tatum tries to pick up a girl by literally picking up a girl.

09:30: Deirdre Lovejoy. Presumably taking advantage of the get-out-of-jail-free card that comes from being in The Wire.

09:37: Dancing. Tatum is trying to figure out Jenna Dewan’s professional moves. He looks like a monkey marionette.

09:43: Tatum learns about punctuality.

09:44: Tatum learns about quitting. I am genuinely amazed that this man became a star. I’ll be honest, at this stage, I’m having a tough time. “You quit everything you start, and you know it.” Fortunately(?) the film is goading me into sticking with this ridiculous project.

09:47: Tatum joins a ballet class with a bunch of 6-year-old girls. Which, I’m sorry, was really weird.

09:51: I realise I’m browsing on Amazon. I have less discipline than Channing Tatum.

09:52: “I have a view like this from my balcony.” “Really?” “No.” Such dialogue.

09:53: Dancing.

09:57: The douche bag Dewan’s character is going out with – who I didn’t even have enough material to mention yet – turns out to be a douche bag. TWIST.

09:58: Did Channing Tatum just call Rachel Griffiths “Commissioner Gordon”? I was typing and I think I misheard. I am definitely not going back to check.

10:03: Dancing. Spontaneously choreographed dancing.

10:05: …if they can do this off-the-cuff like this, why is the whole movie about preparing one dance piece? Apparently it requires no forethought whatsoever…

10:09: Tatum’s sister(?) gives him the biggest glass of orange juice I’ve ever seen. I swear that was bigger than a pint glass. Do people drink orange juice by the litre? Is that a thing I should be doing?

10:12: Dance montage. Could double as a gag reel, potentially. Now I’m thirsty.

10:17: Dramatic bit, leading to introspective montage. Lots of pouting and wearing earphones.

10:22: I realise I’m checking Facebook.

10:24: I honestly can’t tell if this scene is taking place in an alley, in a club or at a house party. Production design has gotten… creative.

10:29: The irritating kid referred to as ‘Skinny’ gets involved in some grand theft auto, then gets shot to pieces. I’m not wholly convinced that this piece of social commentary really ties in with the more pedestrian main story here. I’d like to hope it’s there for more of a purpose than to provide a contemplative story beat…

10:34: It’s show night. I’m not sure of the last time I used the ‘info’ button on the remote to check how far through a film I am this often. There might be a lot of easy-target fun-poking here, but really, this film is awfully half-hearted, from the performances to the filmmaking. Admittedly, I didn’t have high hopes, but I actually expected better than this so far. Kind of stunned that this produced a franchise. Guess it’s all about cost vs. profit…

10:39: Dancing.

10:40: Wait… that was it?

10:42: Credits. Well… no Bob Hoskins. The hangover’s kicking in, though not as badly as I’d anticipated. Regardless, that was an inauspicious start. This could be a very long day. (1/5)

*     *     *     *     *

10:59: Step Up 2 The Streets (2008)

11:00: Narration. Rougher footage. “I remember the first time I saw someone move like they were from another planet…” Already this is seeming better. For one thing, Tatum is out. For another… check out that sweet title! The way it uses the number like that? Pretty awesome. That’ll be the benchmark until Fast 10 Your Seatbelts gets made (I can’t take credit for that; it was proposed in an issue of Little White Lies).

11:02 What the everlasting shit? A subway train car is experiencing a masked flash-dance. It’s like if those goons from The Purge Anarchy got on Britain’s Got Talent. But, y’know, in a train car. For the first time today something is actually enjoyable.

11:05: Oh, but now they’re acting. Sorry, ‘acting’.

11:07: Sonja Sohn! Is there going to be a refugee from The Wire in each of these films? Waiting for Andre ‘Bubbles’ Royo to turn up. Seriously.

11:08: Main character of this one seems to be Briana Evigan’s Andie.

11:09: Dancing. Oh man, Tatum’s back. FOR A DANCE-OFF. WITH TRAMPOLINES. There’s an awful lot of flapping about. Still more fun than anything in film one.

11:13: Tatum danced right out of his clothes. Evigan got owned.

11:15: Think Tatum just danced right out of the movie again. *air fist*

11:17: Evigan’s showing off her  moves for a panel at the performing arts school. I genuinely can’t tell if it’s any good. I am not street.

11:24: A bunch of scenes setting up characters and the reintroducing the school etc. Seems the halls are less crammed with buskers this year. I guess someone started policing that shit.

11:26: Dancing lessons. These kids really do love flapping their arms as fast as they can. Wait… was that twerking??

11:30: Things I wish I had – a sandwich, ibuprofens, better life choices. However, I can’t muster the energy to sit up at this point, so I guess it’s just me and Step Up 2 The Streets for now.

11:33: Some kid who looks like the offspring of Jeff Goldblum and Simon Amstell dances on some stairs.

11:35: If this film has a plot yet, I have quite simply missed it. Oh, here it is. Evigan’s street friends don’t like that she goes to school and… hang on. That was the plot in the first movie, wasn’t it?

11:40: Okay, so this time the school kids are gonna make their own crew. Maid Marian’s merry men are being introduced. Maybe this will lead to a dance-off with the street crew to prove their credibility? Could be going out on a limb with this…

11:43: Yeah, it’s gonna be that. Dance practice.

11:44: Twerking. And an ab-off? Is that a thing?

11:46: Dancing. Man, the competition uses a lot less flappy-arm.

11:53: “Man, clean this fish up!” Is it ON? I think it could be ON.

11:55: Highlight of the day so far… checking my e-mails and learning that the FKA twigs vinyl I’ve ordered has been dispatched. Realise I’ve drifted from the film again. They’re dancing. Checked the movie time code for the first time this film. Definitely working out better than the first, despite my wandering concentration.

11:59: “Catch up on myspace sometime?” This film just got time capsuled.

12:04pm: The school’s been vandalised. The boring blonde guy got beaten up. Pretty much everyone might get expelled. Shit is quite literally moving in the direction of the fan.

12:06: Wait, that’s the head teacher? I thought he was one of the pupils. Well, not quite, but he’s basically the same age as everyone else.

12:09: This film is not living up to its initial meagre promise.

12:10: Introspective montage.

12:13: They are your waiters, they pump your gas, sell you coffee. It’s like Fight Club. They’re Project Mayhem. With flappy-arm.

12:16: Dancing.

12:18: Apparently this is the moment we have all been waiting for…

12:19: Dancing.

12:22: Evigan’s making a speech to unify the seven kingdoms of dance or whatever. Rousing score… Oh man, did she just call them out? Oh it’s definitely ON now, surely?

12:24: Everyone’s dashed outside to dance in the rain. It’s not quite Gene Kelly, mind. A lot of them are just lying down in the puddles. I bet the film doesn’t cover the next week when they’re all off school because they’re poorly.

12:28: Evigan’s crew have definitely gotten better at being judicious with their use of flappy-arm. It seems to have worked out for them. Have they won? Did they win? I’m not sure how they can tell. I guess that’s it.

12:30: “Did you see us out there? I was sliding. I was flipping. It was amazing.” WHY IS NOBODY GOING BACK INDOORS? IT’S REALLY RAINING A LOT.

12:31: Evigan gets kissed by the boring blonde guy. So I guess it was all worth it.

12:32: Credits. That was better than the first, although I’m disappointed that the subway train flash-dance thing didn’t go anywhere. Still, it’s all relative. A generous 2/5. There will now be a break so that I can have considerably more fun going out to have lunch with an ex.

To be continued…

4 Replies to “Pretty Vacancy: Watching 4 Step Up Films (Nearly) Back-To-Back Part 1”

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