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'Step Up 2 the Streets' another typical dance movie

Step Up 2 the Streets (PG-13)

(PG-13)

1 star out of 4

Although it might not be immediately obvious, there is a difference between musicals and dance movies. Musicals feature people who can act and sing their own songs while occasionally dancing. Dance movies feature people who cannot act, dance to someone else's songs and look as if they've had way too much Red Bull. More often than not, neither musicals nor dance movies have plots that make a lick of sense.

The recent wave of dance movies - all of them anchored in hip-hop - owe everything to "Footloose." The working-class lead (in this case a girl) falls for a more affluent love interest, and they spend the entirety of the film denying the attraction and/or fighting the forces that separate them. "Step Up 2 the Streets" only saw the light of day because the original "Step Up" made a hefty profit and these movies cost next to nothing to produce.

Demi Moore clone Briana Evigan stars as Andie, a troubled Baltimore teen whose foster mother has had enough of her sass and threatens to ship her off to Texas. Enter Tyler (Channing Tatum in an extended cameo), the hero from the first movie, who metaphorically slaps Andie upside the head and gives her a wake up call. He arranges an audition at the local arts school in the hopes she'll turn her life around.

Andie immediately catches the eye of Chase (Robert Hoffman), the most popular guy at the school and brother of the iron-willed administrator Blake (Will Kemp). Because Blake is such a tyrant and Chase appears to be a player, Andie hedges her bets by dividing her time between school and "the 410," a scruffy dance troupe and the reigning street champions.

The will-they/won't-they romance between Andie and Chase is never in doubt, something even rookie director Jon M. Chu recognizes. As a result, Chu and his screenwriters take a story line that could have been fleshed out in a truncated episode of "Fame" and load it down with tedious filler.

We're treated to the requisite stock characters (the jealous girl, the eager-to-please geek, the rebel, the loner, etc.) with names like Moose, Hair, Fly, Monster, Smiles and Cable. All of this predictable mediocrity would be easier to stomach had the dancing itself shown some modicum of originality, but sadly, it doesn't. With the exception of a couple new songs from Missy Elliott, even the soundtrack consists of previously released material.

While not much better, the first "Step Up" at least tried to do something different by including a character rooted in classical ballet. Melding two such different styles into an entirely new dance form allowed us to somewhat overlook its dramatic inadequacies.

If all you want to see is hip- hop dancing, you'd be better off saving $10, plopping yourself down on the couch and killing 90 minutes by watching MTV. (Disney/Touchstone)