The current glut of dance-happy trifles is introducing a new generation to the magic of dance-movie clichés. Dance fans too young to remember Grease, let alone the heyday of the Freed Unit, are learning that sometimes a talented young dancer is forced to choose between the irresistible pull of clandestine street dancing and the highbrow respectability of classic dance, only to learn that the two have more in common than folks on either side are willing to admit. They're also learning that interpersonal conflicts are sometimes so explosive that they can only be resolved via a climactic dance-off, and that nothing bonds a dance troupe together like a montage sequence. Lastly, they're learning that dance movies often put a great deal of thought into their dance sequences, and very little thought into everything else.
Step Up 2 The Streets is a supremely lazy teacher of the above lessons, stumbling gracelessly from point A to point B and hitting all the expected notes in the process. Briana Evigan stars as a dancer who runs into trouble when her outlaw dance crew ends up on the news. Evigan ends up matriculating at the Maryland School Of The Arts, where hoity-toity types turn up their nose at her raw skillz and untamed exuberance. Robert Hoffman, who appears to have been cloned from the DNA of Jay Mohr and Chris Klein, co-stars as Evigan's love interest, the brother of the school's uptight headmaster, and a talented dancer in his own right. After Evigan is kicked out of her old crew for getting above her raisin', she and Hoffman transform a loose confederacy of outlaws and misfits into a lean, mean dancing machine in time for the big dance-off.
Streets' best sequences combine prankish humor with irresistible rhythm, as when Evigan's old crew transforms a subway car into an impromptu venue for guerrilla street theater. A climactic dance number where Evigan and friends risk pneumonia dancing in the pounding rain is a showstopper, but the non-dance elements feel like an afterthought. The central romance is terminally bland, while Evigan's woozy family melodrama seems borrowed from countless superior dance movies. For teenyboppers blissfully ignorant of Flashdance, Fame, or the Shabba Doo oeuvre, Streets might seem funky-fresh. For everyone else, it's a hoary rerun.