Step Up 2 the Streets

Even “Breakin'” had a follow-up, but I assure everyone “Step Up 2 the Streets” is no “Electric Boogaloo.” Instead, this “sequel” is an anemic, lousy cash-grab, even for the coin-vultures at Disney, who put zero imagination into this gamy dance marathon. It’ll babysit your teenagers for 90 minutes, but artistic merit is the last thing on the mind of this rotten production.

Working with her “crew,” who spend their days dancing around and vandalizing Baltimore, Andie (alarming Sophia Bush doppelganger Briana Evigan) is facing shipment to Texas relatives if she doesn’t shape up and behave. Taking advice from mentor Tyler (Channing Tatum, in a cameo), Andie auditions for and is accepted by the Maryland School of the Arts. Finding solace in classmate Chase (Robert Hoffman, who looks about 45 years-old) at the uptight school, the two explore their hip-hop moves together while Briana entertains the idea of assembling her own squad of dancers plucked from around campus, hoping to stun the city at the annual underground dance competition, “The Streets.”

2006’s “Step Up” was a lethargic soap opera that rightfully bewitched the hearts and minds of teen girls across the nation, who turned it into an unexpected sleeper success. “Streets” is hardly going to rock the lucrative boat, and offers more of the same: dancing, scripting, and temple-rubbing bad acting. Somehow “Streets” is even more loathsome than its predecessor and I chalk up this revolting development to a studio nakedly assembling a disposable product that offers no other function than to spend exactly one weekend atop the U.S. box office draining allowances out of the pitiable pre-teens who are suckered into this.

Perhaps director Jon Chu knew he wasn’t making high art with “Streets,” but that doesn’t excuse his total incompetence. Riddled with deadly scenes of melodrama as Briana fights for acceptance, and dripping with stagnant, trendy dance choreography no better than the worst rap video imaginable (oh yes, a trampoline factors into one sequence), Chu is hopeless, unable to process basic storytelling essentials. Every scene showcases ineptitude from the director, who seems more enthralled with his snuff film lighting scheme than challenging his dreary actors and nitwit, awkwardly slang-heavy script (written by, lord help me, two 40 year-olds), which makes the average after-school special look like “Network.”

Only a few weeks ago saw the release of the frighteningly similar “How She Move,” a film that contained professional performances, a strong message on the importance of education, and enough snappy dance moves to power 1000 slumber party coffee table accidents. Of course, the general public treated the picture as though it had cooties. “Streets” actually disapproves of characters trying to instill discipline in these unwashed youngsters, tries to pass off complete acting amateurs as lead-worthy talent, and offers gaudy choreography more reminiscent of a Kenny Ortega masturbation session than awe-inspiring foot magic.

The finale of “Streets” takes the dance battle action into a parking lot rainstorm, giving itself over to complete “Flashdance” insanity that no crusty critic like me could possibly process without exploding into a million judgmental pieces. “Step Up” was a MySpace sensation and there was, at the very least, a plausibility for its success. “Streets” offers no such threadbare cultural compensation, and remains a methodical monstrosity of junior high entertainment value. Where are Ozone and Turbo when you need themr

Rating: D-