Attention, film critics: You’ve seen Step Up, the new teen-oriented dance flick starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, a couple of fetching young thespians hoping to, er, ”step up,” into the big time. (Okay, Gretchen Weiners, I’ll stop trying to make ”step up” happen.) Anyway, now it’s time for you film reviewers to show your allegiances. So line up on either side of the room — it’s either Team Channing or Team Jenna. Chop-chop! And PopWatchers, if you see Step Up this weekend, don’t hesitate to weigh in and choose sides, too.
-Ty Burr, Boston Globe: ”It helps that star Channing Tatum is, in the words of the 20-something women fanning themselves behind me at the screening, ‘Omigod. So. Hot.’ Tatum throws off a lot of charisma for an expressionless slab of muscle, and between this confection, his Duke Orsino in She’s the Man, and the upcoming indie mean-streets drama A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, he’s poised to break out.”
-Kathryn Greenway, CanWest News Service: "Standing out in the capable ensemble cast is natural dance talent Channing Tatum as Tyler, the poor boy with criminal leanings who finds himself cleaning the halls of a performing arts school as penance for a dastardly deed. Tatum has no formal dance training, but is a fine hip-hop dancer. What sets him apart from the pack (there is a whole slew of truly fabulous street dancers out there) is his willingness to commit so completely to his role. Can’t take your eyes off him."
-Judy Chia Hui Hsu, Seattle Times: "As the car-jacking, basketball-playing high-schooler, Tatum gives us an anti-hero with charismatic athleticism, comedic timing and unconventional good looks — a longish face with a small scar beneath his right eye."
-Mary F. Pols, Contra Costa Times: "Tatum, who looks a bit like Brad Pitt, has ropey arms and an endlessly long and lean torso. His Tyler is meant to be a talented street dancer, and he sells us on the premise. Even though he’s far too old for the part, he makes it work, in large part due to his soft, understated delivery."
-Chelsea Bain, Boston Herald: "There is certainly a spark to Tatum, who has popped up in a number of teen films (She’s the Man, Supercross) but still manages to come across as deep. With his pouty lips and bitter edge, his character sucks us in for the ride."
-John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press: "With fresh-faced Dewan better at dancing than drama, the movie wisely focuses on the bad boy played by Tatum. You might recognize him as Amanda Bynes’ hunky roommate in She’s the Man. Though closer to his mid-20s than his teens, his Tyler has a likable, awkward quality as he finds himself not only attracted to Nora but also the idea of dancing for a diploma at the place he once trashed."
-Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star: "As Tyler, the strikingly named Tatum has a downcast, guarded quality that busts out all over every time he dances: there’s no arrogance in his performance, and his character seems just as surprised and impressed as we are that his moves are not only cutting it with the upper crust but cutting through as well."
-Meghan Keane, New York Sun: "It’s unclear if [Tatum] can handle more difficult fare, but his looks should ensure he gets more chances. Ms. Dewan seems to have a more natural range, and here she looks sweet, smart, and stylish without falling into a predictably prissy stereotype."
-Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times: "Like Channing Tatum, Ms. Dewan has experienced her 25th birthday. Neither one of them is remotely believable as a teenager. Tatum looks like he could be a teacher at the school — but that’s the least of his problems. His biggest problem is that his idea of acting is to mumble his lines and to squint and stretch a lot, as if he’s just woken up."
-As for Robert Horton, from Snohomish County’s The Herald, even though you call it a draw, we’re putting you on Team Jenna. She needs the support, yo!: "Jenna Dewan can dance all right, but is otherwise straight off the assembly line for young starlets. Channing Tyler has the kind of broken, tough-guy look that casting directors like, but his mumbling doesn’t recall Marlon Brando so much as it recalls the sullen Metallica fan who flunked out of your chemistry class in high school."