Scorching Dance Numbers but Little Plot
Don’t look now, but the Step Up franchise has reached a level of success matched only by a few others. Mark Speer’s Step Up Revolution marks the fourth episode in the sizzling dance and romance series -- a feat matched only by such memorable franchises as Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Shrek and a short list of others. Most die long before even hitting number three, and we now know it’s not out of the question to reboot a series after only a couple of installments. Longevity is rare these days.
That’s not to say the Step Up phenomenon shouldn’t have flamed out long ago. Marked by poor acting, ridiculously implausible plots, and a cast of characters loveable only to its most loyal fans, these over-the-top films have managed to get by on a single fixation that has hooked a legion of teen-aged fanatics ever since Channing Tatum first popped-and-locked back in the first Step Up (2006). Step Up Revolution follows the lead of its predecessors by featuring a cast of red-hot young performers in gravity-defying production numbers set to a chest-thumping soundtrack. The Step Up films are about high-energy dance action, nothing more.
Yes, there’s a plot in there somewhere. As loose as it is, the story in Step Up Revolution revolves around best buds Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel) who lead a multi-cultural group of cutting-edge dancers, musicians, and artists known only as “The Mob” that descends on Miami with dazzling flash mobs appearing out of nowhere -- and vanishing just as quickly. Seems the mob wants to win a sponsored contest that awards the first contestant to reach 10 million hits on Youtube with a $100,000 prize.
Meanwhile, Sean meets Emily Anderson (So You Think You Can Dance’s Kathryn McCormick), a classically trained dancer and the daughter of a ruthless developer named Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher), who plans to raze the The Mob’s neighborhood to make way for a huge commercial development.
Naturally, the conservative, all-business Mr. Anderson doesn’t approve of Emily’s artistic ways and agrees to give her a choice: either get a job as a professional dancer by the end of the summer, or come back to Cleveland with him and help run the family business. Emily joins the Mob to help put an edge to her dance routine, but upon hearing of her father’s plans, Sean decides to hide Emily’s identity from the group. However, once their secret gets out however, the Mob turns from performance art to protest art by disrupting the building plans with a semi-destructive assault on the multi-billion dollar complex.
As was the case with the three previous Step Up movies, the film catches fire when the plot steps aside in favor of the scorching dance sequences. They’re actually more like acrobatic routines and precision drills than dancing (even low riders bounce to the techno beat) -- but regardless, Step Up Revolution screeches to a grinding halt when people talk and dancers, first-timers, and wannabes are called upon to act.
Speer makes his directorial debut with Step Up Revolution, taking over for Jon Chu who helmed the middle two films in the series. He certainly knows where to put the camera for maximum 3D visual effect (hint: it’s right at the apex of a lunge at the camera), and with the aid of a more-than-capable D.P. and editors who know how to cut to the beat, Step Up Revolution is like a big bowl of bright, colorful candy… irresistible to the kids in the audience who’ll keep the series alive for number five, but ultimately unfulfilling with no lasting value.
(Released by Summit Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for some suggestive dancing and language.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.