Making the Grades
Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) is a white boy growing up in the hood. Shuffled from one foster home to the next, he amuses himself with street dancing, petty theft and stealing cars.
Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan) has only ever had one goal: to become a professional dancer. Studying at the Maryland School of the Arts, the talented teen works long hours to pursue her dream, even without her mother's blessing.
Their worlds collide when Tyler lands himself 200 hours of community service at the fine art facility as consequence for a vandalism spree. Nora, whose partner has a sprained ankle, auditions the juvenile delinquent as a possible replacement after accidentally catching a glimpse of his hip-hop moves.
The rest of the movie plays out pretty much as expected, as the over-achieving ballet student teaches the rebellious youth some performance discipline, and the free-style young man helps the up-tight girl loosen up her precision choreography. As they encounter obstacles while rehearsing for a show with scholarship opportunities, they kindle more than just their passion for dance.
Although the plot is predictable, parents may be pleasantly surprised by the restrained portrayals of sexuality, which only feature some tight costumes, sensual dance moves and brief humor-soliciting innuendo. The film does present some content concerns however, in the use of mild and moderate profanities, as well as violence. Depictions of Tyler's inner city existence include a casual attitude towards crime, gang behavior and a drive-by shooting (blood from a gunshot wound is shown).
It is hard to believe the characters in the film are high school aged (both Tatum and Dewan are twenty-six), yet they still present some impressive production numbers, sure to please dance fans. Also aimed at a teen demographic is the occasional moralizing employed to drive home the movie's feel-good ending. Despite this sentimentality, viewers will likely appreciate the message that speaks to taking responsibility to Step Up to one's own potential and paying the price to achieve one's aspirations.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Step Up.
Tyler and his friends are convinced the Maryland School of the Arts is an institution for rich kids. How does that feeling contribute to their lack of respect for the school’s property? What was the real cost of their act of vandalism?
What does Director Gordon mean when she tells Tyler he needs more than just talent? What qualities do you think are essential for success?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Step Up.
Using dance to straighten out youth problems is the central theme in the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, as well as in the feature film Take the Lead. (Note: Jenna Dewan also had a role in the latter movie.) Relative newcomer Channing Tatum played a part in Coach Carter, a based-on-a-true-story adaptation about some troubled teens that find the path to a brighter future through the game of basketball.