One of my favorite voyeuristic pleasures is watching good dancers dance. It's similar to the joy of watching athletes... unique humans balancing and contorting their bodies into and out of extraordinary positions. If the dancing is choreographed, synced to music, and let alone to breathe (away from the of ax of a nervous film editor), I swoon.
Step Up 2 The Streets - aware of it's average script - front loads the screen with two of its best moments. A hinted at train robbery turns into a guerilla-style dance massacre, and a bet is settled with a freestyle dance floor showdown. Director Jon Chu still gets at the malaise and anger of underprivileged youth, but he reaches it through dance, not John Singleton-style shoot ups. (Chu plays with this: In one scene, a girl is hoisted up, spun on her partner's shoulders, knocking down a line of people like she's using a tommy gun.)
Coincidentally, along with last year's re-release of Charles Burnett's stereotype defying Killer of Sheep, there's been a recent run of movies rooted in middle to lower class urban life that refuses to rely on ugly truths in order to entertain: Stomp the Yard, Daddy's Little Girls, Pride, How She Move. You can add Step Up 2 The Streets to that list. While it's less class probing than the others, SU2TS shares in those film's desire to move beyond ghetto cliche in order to portray struggle.
On the just passed 2007 year-end lists, critics cooed over the technical know-how-and-wow of Zodiac, There Will Be Blood, and Syndromes and a Century, but these movies simply tease the viewer. Their director's messy intentions fog up your eyes, and the visual titillation, felt at the onset, fades. SU2TS works in the opposite way. It spreads out its strengths, swallows its loses, and hits you with the best of what's left. If Fincher, P.T. Anderson et. al. would do the same, and quit pre-programming themselves as the heirs to 1970's cinema, they'd join Jon Chu and - maybe - come alive in the age of the 00's.