On Friday, Aug, 8, 2014, the date of Step Up: All In’s theatrical release, BuzzFeed staff writers Katie Heaney and Arianna Rebolini watched the four previous Step Up movies in a row — before going to see the fifth in the theater. Heaney had seen 1–4 previously (some of them several times); Rebolini was new to the franchise, and would experience it entirely in one day.
The marathon ran from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and it was great. Below, their reflections.
1. Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum have EXCELLENT chemistry.
Which is great, because now they are married! Tatum and Dewan-Tatum met on the set of Step Up, so it’s especially rewarding to rewatch the movie now, years later, and kind of watch them fall in love.
KH: All I want is to be lifted the way that Tyler [Tatum] lifts Nora [Dewan-Tatum]. Unfortunately I am much too tall. It’s just not a realistic thing for me to hope for.
AR: This is making me think the ability to lift me like that is, like, a qualification, in a boyfriend? Which is crazy! But they should be able to.
2. But in rewatching all of the movies, you’ll be surprised how little dancing there is in the original Step Up.
The movie that began this illustrious franchise devotes, by far, the least amount of screen time to actual dance numbers. Sure, there are training montages — and at least one killer (if illogical, but who cares) choreographed club scene — but it’s much more dedicated to actual plot development, the characters, and their relationships.
AR: I feel like this is most apparent when you see them in a row, because you’re so bombarded with these amazing and over-the-top numbers in the sequels that the first movie ends up seeming quaint. But the dancing is obviously impressive! Just maybe not as memorable?
KH: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s hard to judge this accurately now. Because at the time, it felt like the dancing in the first was so great, and there was so much of it. We just had no idea what was coming. I do think that the “battling crew” structure (absent from the first movie as well as the fourth) is the best, most exciting format for the movies, rather than the “audition” format of this one. I still think, though, that Tatum is one of the most enigmatic dancers in the series.
3. Every Step Up lead is, in some respect, an orphan.
Step Up’s Tyler Gage is an orphan who lives with a foster family, as is Step Up 2 the Streets’ Andie West. Step Up: 3D’s Luke is an orphan whose parents left him with the famous dance loft/sanctuary he must fight to preserve, while Natalie rebels against unseen, distant upper-class parents. In Step Up: Revolution, the female lead, Emily, is raised by a single father (against whom she rebels), while Sean’s parentage is unclear, but he’s shown living with his adult sister.
KH: This is a very Disney thing, the orphan protagonist. I think it just helps establish the leads’ desperation, and their drive to prove something. Otherwise, you’d kind of be like, “What’s the big deal? Sign up for a Dancing Divas class. Not everyone can be a pro.” It also helps establish the class struggle built into all of these movies.
AR: Definitely. It also pumps up this “All I’ve got are my moves!” idea of desperation that is, I think, clearest in Step Up 3D. How are they going to pay their rent? Where will they sleep? WHERE WILL THEY DANCE? But it’s funny because it is literally every lead. Like, when Natalie says Luke’s parents must be so proud of what he’s done to the place, I didn’t even need to hear his response. Uh, they’re dead, Natalie! Duh!
4. Every Step Up movie is about class tensions.
Step Up installments 1 & 2 are about poor (white) kids navigating privileged kid spaces. While in some respects it feels that we’re led to cheer for the rich kids — you want Tyler Gage to get to dance, and attend the private school, and you want Andie West’s art school crew to beat her old crew, the 410 — we’re also meant to recognize that the rich kids cannot win without the ingenuity, creativity, and skill that those poor kids bring to the floor. And they kind of try to smooth over the private school thing by saying that most of those students are there on scholarship.
Step Up 3D is about a bunch of kids with “nowhere else to go” who must fight to preserve their space, and their freedom to pursue art. Step Up: Revolution is, at least at first, somewhat socialist — the crew wants to fight The Man, and preserve community ownership of their neighborhood. (They sign a corporate deal with Nike at the end, though.) And Step Up: All In was about living as a struggling artist, and how to make that work.
KH: I don’t think they do a perfect job with this. It’s like Bring It On, in which you’re supposed to empathize with Gabrielle Union’s team, but ultimately you’re supposed to want Kirsten Dunst’s team to win. Because they DESERVE it. And then at the end, you’re like, oh, well it’s OK, they’re all friends now. But you know that in real life, those private school kids (however they got there) had more access to resources, they’re more likely to be seen by dance companies. You don’t know what happens to the losing crews. I think these movies try to be progressive — they’re anti-elitism, certainly — but, you know, it’s not perfect.
AR: Yeah, Step Up the franchise definitely wants you to believe it is rooting for the underdog — and often it is. But The Streets just doesn’t get there for me. It does genuinely suck that Andie decides dancing with the MSA kids is more worthwhile than dancing with the non-art-school students. Other than the fact that the leads aren’t wealthy, they’re not really fighting against much. Is this where I say I also find it suspect that there are *no* gay characters on any of these crews? Because I do.
KH: Definitely. There are times they almost hint at it, and then they just yank it away.
5. Andie West (played by Briana Evigan in Step Up 2 The Streets and Step Up: All In) is FAR AND AWAY the best female lead in the franchise.
We’d like to think producers knew it, too, and that’s why they brought her back for the series’ fifth film.
KH: Andie is my favorite female lead for several reasons: She’s the only one who gets to be the truly central character (the female leads in Step Ups 1, 3, and 4 are secondary to the male lead on his dance/life journey), she’s the only one with any real attitude — she shuts Chase down several times — and she is, by far, the sexiest dancer among them.
AR: She’s a babe. After I got home from our marathon, I rewatched all of her (and Moose’s, duh) dances on YouTube. For a long time. But she’s also a boss! While remaining compassionate! She’s my new role model.
6. Step Up 3D is, in terms of its leads, an aberration.
Step Up 3D stars a male lead, “Luke,” who can neither act nor dance — indeed, his character doesn’t even want to be a dancer. Instead, he wants to be a filmmaker. This contradictory desire undermines (or complicates) the simple, straightforward spirit that moves the other films along so well: a dancer with under-recognized talent whom we can cheer on as he becomes the BEST. The female lead, “Natalie,” can dance, though we don’t see much that makes her stand out from many of the more talented members in the crew. And as a couple? They’re just boring.
KH: I think it’s at the part where they stand on the industrial fan and, apropos of nothing, blow their slushies into the air that you’re like, “OK, there is nothing else for them to do.” They aren’t compelling together. Neither seems particularly invested in dancing. All Natalie wants is for Luke, whom she just met, to move with her to California. OK! Go!
AR: Luke made me angry. Fine, yes, he’s a good-looking man, but surely they could’ve found a star of at least the same caliber as Chase (Step Up 2 the Streets) — who, sure, wasn’t the best actor, but at least could dance? I was genuinely distracted by how baffling I found it, and I had no emotional stake in his story. He showed up at the train station to go to California with his boring girlfriend? Cool?
KH: The only good thing Luke gave any of us is the term “B-FAB”: Born From A Boombox. I will never forget that.
7. The real stars of Step Up 3D are Moose and Camille.
Everyone knows this! EVERYONE! Moose has stolen every scene he’s been in, Step Ups 2–5, and it’s high time that he appear in a Step Up film as the true lead. He’s a natural actor, a highly charismatic performer, and, without question, the series’ most entertaining dancer to watch. Also he’s so cute!! Step Up: All In does fans a serious service in the screen time it devotes to Moose and Camille, but it’s high time for the future Step Up 6 to do us one better, and make them its proper stars.
KH: Moose the person (Adam Sevani) is too young for me to be as in love with him as I am, but I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care! What do they expect when they have him stomp around in the water like that? And he is actually SO hot in Step Up: All In. SUCH a sexy dancer.
AR: When we started Step Up 2 the Streets you made a quick comment about how the best thing about the movie is Moose, but I was still surprised when he danced that first time on the stairs. It was, for me, this progression from, “Oh, what a cute kid,” to “Wow, wait, what a great dancer,” to reflexively muttering “MMMMM” in the theater when he made his arm-bared entrance in All In.That said, I do wish Camille had more of a story beyond just being his GF, though.
KH: True. They play it like she just isn’t as interested in dance, but she’s great at it (as everyone knows from her multiple appearances in Missy Elliott videos!), and it’d be great for the future Step Up 6 to own that.
8. Just to reiterate: Step Up is a series *about* Moose.
The Step Up movies are about a lot of things: class, race, ambition, creativity vs. commercialism, teamwork, friendship, loyalty. And all these things are fantastic. And we know it sounds a little silly, because they’re “dance movies.” But especially early on in the series, they really do try to cover a lot of larger social themes.
All that said, it’s been about Moose ever since he first appeared in Step Up 2 the Streets. Make him the lead in Step Up 6. Please.
9. The Step Up movies also have a strong “friendship is important” undercurrent running through them.
This is something that I don’t think stands out as much when watched individually, but each of the Step Up movies raises questions of loyalty, and how we honor the people we grew up with, and how hard (and important!) it can be to remain dedicated to long-held friendships even amidst new, exciting things in our lives. It’s actually really touching!
KH: Nowhere is this theme more evident than in Step Up: Revolution and Step Up: All In, in the central friendship between Sean (the lead) and Eddy (who’s more of a secondary, supporting role). Eddy has a nasty little temper sometimes, and in some cases I found myself annoyed by his tight-lipped stubbornness, but on the other hand, he has moments of genuine vulnerability that aren’t often super present in movie depictions of male friendship. And it’s a question that comes up again and again in the other films, too. That’s what “crews” are really all about!
AR: Yes! There’s a running theme that friends are the family that we choose, and part of that is the inevitable tension that arises when a lead picks dance over a friend (Step Up) or a girl over the crew (Step Up Revolution) or a new crew over the old one (Step Up 2 the Streets). I genuinely think it has something thoughtful to say about the difficulty of prioritizing your life, and the compromises you make when you put your passion first!
10. Step Up: All In gives Vladd (the “robot guy”) the little love story he deserves.
We don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say that Vladd (everyone’s favorite robot dancer) meets a similarly inclined dancer at the competition in Las Vegas, and it’s totally weird and very cute.
KH: I love Vladd and his weird little disjointed neck. I don’t get how he works. It’s a little scary to me. But I’m always happy in the movies when he comes jerkily out from behind the crowd, a slow-motion robot walking at you. He’s great and I’m glad he played a little bit of a bigger part in the new movie.
AR: Vladd makes me…uncomfortable? Or he did, until they humanized by showing his affection for his lady robot. Adorable. He’s a little less scary now.
11. Watching that much dancing will give you a false confidence in your own abilities.
Obviously you won’t suddenly believe you can spring into a backflip or spin on your head, but once you start recognizing moves — especially in the club scenes — they feel a little more accessible, until suddenly you’re like, “Yeah, I could look like that on the dance floor if I just really committed.”
AR: It’s funny because we couldn’t have been more sedentary, watching five movies in a row, but I kept wanting to get up and try something because I didn’t believe I couldn’t do it. Like, in the contemporary dancing, when the woman bends backward and arches her back — I made my boyfriend try it with me later that night but it just looked like he was preventing me from doing a trust fall.
KH: After we were done I jokingly asked if there were any dance battles going on in the city that night, but I also wasn’t that joking. I looked into hip-hop dance classes again for the first time, probably, since the last time I watched these movies. It’ll pass. But today, I’m sure I have it in me. I’m B-FAB.