(Video on-Demand, November 2018) There’s a deliberately mercenary intent to Step Up that makes the film more interesting to watch as a Hollywood product demonstration than for any of its intrinsic qualities. A spirited blend of very mid-2000s youth culture components, it mixes urban violence with dance numbers in an attempt to spit out a complete date movie for the boys and the girls. It would be almost completely forgotten today if it wasn’t for a few lucky breaks that led to its many sequels ensuring de facto influence. (To be fair, the sequels are often one step up from the original in terms of sheer enjoyment—I particularly liked Step Up 3D.) The film’s biggest luck was to choose a then-unknown Channing Tatum as the male lead, playing a hip-hop dancer from the wrong side of the tracks who (through handy contrivances) comes in contact with an upper-class girl studying ballet. They’re fated to be together, obviously, which lead to a ballet/hip-hop fusion that leaves the inevitable judges inevitably dazzled right in time for him to transfer to her better school, get the girl and dance their way to the end credits. It’s pure formula stuff, with a direction so ordinary (except for the rooftop dance cinematography, maybe) that you’ll be forgiven for mistaking this for Save the Last Dance or Honey or Stomp the Yard or other similar movies from the era. But that’s kind of the point—the clichés write the plot and hopefully the teenage audiences won’t have seen any of the other movies because teenagers are an evergreen resource of movie history ignorance. (Well, not really—Hollywood usually severely underestimates teenage media savviness.) Step Up remains a bit of an oddball entry even in its own series because it’s a bit darker and not quite as pure a dance musical comedy as later instalments would become. But that’s Hollywood for you: figure out the kinks in the first film, remove those, add more of what the kids want to see and voilà a series.