Speaking here as an artist–and no matter what anyone tells you, writing is an art (even if it is perhaps the most craftsman-like of the art forms, and certainly among the least romantic)–I actually had a lot of respect for what was going on in Step Off, a copy of which the folks out at Lions Gate sent over for me to review. Art is not easy, and it’s seldom kind. But for those willing to stick with it through the thin times, you’ll discover a whole new realm of possibility. And Step Off might be one of the most inspirational movies of its variety for an artist, even if the premise is tired.
Step Off follows Rippa, a collegiate music producer who’s been trying to break into the big time. He’s got lots of problems in front of him–a student loan demanding payment, his baby’s mother constantly demanding payment, industry backbiting, theft, and even some infighting on top of it. But Rippa’s got a lot of heart, and he’s going to struggle his way through in a bid to get to the top.
See what I mean? Horatio Alger is spinning in his grave to know people are still pulling chunks of his work and putting them in whole new settings, but that doesn’t make the proceedings that much less inspirational. Admittedly, we’ve seen this before. Not quite in this fashion, but we’ve seen this before. However, cliches are cliches for a reason: their sheer accuracy. And watching Rippa and his cohorts struggle through their various issues gives all the young artists out there a little extra punch into their own artistic endeavors.
A story in which the new guy shows up, tears up the metaphorical pea patch and then becomes king of the universe isn’t much of a story at all. But a story where a new guy fights his way through a horde of troubles and then makes it big after seeing the bottom of the barrel and tearing his way up through the side of the barrel is a much more satisfying experience.
And yes, despite the cliched nature of Step Off, we’ve got a reasonably inspirational and fairly satisfying experience here. That was more than I expected going in, to be honest, but this came out nicely. There will even be some funny bits, as Rippa leases out his studio to some rappers who look very much like American Idol rejects along with a couple who can’t rap unless they smoke some weed first, and of course, some of Rippa’s competitors as he fights his way to the top of the rap game are interesting enough–you’ll enjoy the Beat Priest and Enigma especially.
The Screenhead Ten Scale rewards a job well done and hands Step Off, a moderately satisfying performance, a seven out of ten for doing a passable job with relatively mediocre source materials. That this even worked at all is something of a minor miracle.