An American street-dance journeyman and a ragtag crew of pan-European freestylers get their act together for a Paris competition in the Brit-made slice of fromage StreetDance 2 – not to be confused with the stateside Step Up franchise (delivering No. 4 this summer) despite many glaring similarities.
When I think of an American dancing in the streets of Paris, it’s Gene Kelly cavorting to George and Ira Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm with a bunch of kids dressed up like French tykes on the MGM back lot. An American in Paris (1951) doesn’t have the most memorable story but its staying power is in its set pieces, imaginative flights of fancy celebrating Gershwin compositions. StreetDance 2 not only misses an opportunity to pay homage, even in some small way, to that classic but it abandons story altogether.
Sure, audiences don’t go to StreetDance or Step Up movies for the scintillating dialogue and smart plot twists (and certainly not for the 3-D; more on that later). The creative minds behind these flicks can’t get beyond the competition scenario with a romantic entanglement on the side. But SD2 is so slapped together it feels less like a movie than an extended montage, with liberal (perhaps merciful) use of inane voice-over, courtesy of “American in Paris” Ash (Falk Hentschel), to guide us through the extremely tired connect-the-dots plot.
The opening sequence sets us up. Ash, who is working “undercover” as a popcorn boy at a London club, steals a chance to face off against Vince, his arch nemesis, but is humiliated after falling flat on his behind. Enter upbeat manager-wannabe Eddie (George Sampson, the sole hold-over from SD1), who cajoles Ash into putting together a crew of Europe’s top freestylers.
Without explaining how they get the coin, the pair criss-cross the continent (with requisite map animation) to recruit an ensemble of mostly non-speaking characters who deliver snippets of dance, produce mob reactions to plot points and participate in a pillow fight (StreetDance 2’s answer to Step Up 3’s use of bubbles).
Ash, the forward-thinking American, wants to integrate a new flavour into their moves and finds it at a local Latin club, where sultry salsa freestyler Eva (Sofia Boutella, whose spark is wasted here) catches his eye. Her uncle (Tom Conti, in need of a comeback swing but not via this movie) owns the club and allows Ash and crew to practise there. But they struggle with the sexy cheek-to-cheek duo style Ash is convinced will give them an edge.
And what of the dancing? Well, we get more sustained routines almost every night on TV. Awesome dancers are on display here but their moves are chopped up. Not to mention that the 3-D treatment does not serve the movie well, particularly in scenes with fast moves (spins, flips, etc.).
The limitations of StreetDance 2, however, extend far beyond technical challenges. This is one American in Paris you really don’t need to meet.
Special to The Globe and Mail
- Directed by Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini
- Written by Jane English
- Starring Falk Hentschel, Sofia Boutella, George Sampson and Tom Conti
- Clsssification: PG
- 1 star