Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) is on the fast track to nowhere living on the wrong side of the tracks in Baltimore and stealing cars. He also loves to dance a dream he figures he’ll never get a shot at. But after breaking into the local “rich kids” art school and trashing the theater department with his friend Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Mac’s little tag-along brother Skinny (DeShawn Washington) Tyler gets a break. He takes the fall for the vandalism and receives community service to be served in full at the school. Darn the luck. Then Tyler meets Nora (Jenna Dewan) who is practicing for her senior dance showcase and has just lost her partner to an ankle injury. Instead of sweeping floors and taking out trash Tyler now has the opportunity of a lifetime. Natch. At first glance She's the Man’s Tatum doesn’t seem like your typical street dancer. Yet he really has a kind of quiet confidence to his moves plus an undeniable sensuality. His chemistry with Dewan (Take the Lead) is also quite palpable as the two move in sync--and not just on the dance floor if you get my drift. Providing some laughs is newcomer DeShawn Washington adding in colorful commentary while R&B singer Mario as Tyler’s only friend at the art school is surprisingly adequate handling the acting chores. Director Anne Fletcher is no stranger to the dancing having choreographed films such as The 40 Year-Old Virgin and The Longest Yard. With her first feature film effort Fletcher does a good job showing the differences between Tyler and Nora’s styles--his dangerous and street-wise hers safe and proper. With that the director also made it easy to root our young lovers. Sure Step Up isn’t rocket science. You basically know every er step they are going to make as it were. But the dancing is steamy and the young stars even steamier. In this day and age of TV reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance Step Up may even get you to sign up for a dance lesson.
In 1966 one story of sports bravery begat another and together they would forever change the face(s) of basketball if not the nation. When Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) accepts a job to coach at Texas Western University he’s forced to recruit several black players instead of highly touted white players due to budgetary constraints and a program that doesn’t exactly match that of that of say Kentucky University. Black players were taboo back then thus turning the team into fodder for hate crimes and ridicule. But Haskins doesn’t allow his players to get caught up in the national furor and they show their allegiance to him by taking any and all aggression out on opposing players on the court the beleaguered players reaching a Zen in which they only hear their coach. They make it to the championship game where they play an all-white Kentucky team in a sort of past-versus-future landmark showdown. Someone out in Hollywood is determined to make Josh Lucas a star—or at least the next Matthew McConaughey. After Stealth failed to do that and everything else he landed another huge role in Glory and it just might be the right fit. Lucas’s No. 1 asset might always be his looks—looks that will at least sustain female viewers’ interest during Glory—but if there is to be a proverbial breakout performance this will be it. Lucas doesn’t quite exude “basketball coach ” even with unrelenting screaming at players but he wears the Southern-isms well and the more dramatic moments reveal his potential. Jon Voight also stars as Adolph Ruff storied coach of Kentucky. Voight’s makeup job places him somewhere between his Howard Cosell in Ali and Nicole Kidman’s make-under in The Hours but he again does justice to a controversial sports legend. Noted TV-commercial director James Gartner makes his directorial debut on Glory but it’s uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer who makes a more lasting imprint on the film—he Bruckheimer-izes it if you will making a sports drama look like Bad Boys at times. Gone are the victorious and uplifting personal stories of oppression overcome in the 1960’s South; superimposed instead are comedic embellishments off-court hijinks and mere snippets of courageous depictions. This admittedly keeps the film flowing but it also in a way trivializes the story’s impact. Gartner ultimately re-creates the basketball scenes amazingly well though which is where the movie truly shines. For that reason it’s a shame Bruckheimer had to impart his glossy stylings at all because it seems like Gartner was doing just fine on his own.