[Review] – Step Up Revolution

15 Aug

Title: Step Up Revolution
Year: 2012
Director: Scott Speer
Writers: Amanda Brody and Jenny Mayer, based on characters by Duane Adler
Starring: Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Adam Sevani, Misha Gabriel, Peter Gallagher
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some suggestive dancing and language
Runtime: 99 min
IMDb Rating: 5.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Metacritic: 43

I’ve never really gotten why the Step Up film series keeps on going, but I guess you at least have to give it some kind of respect for actually doing so. Plus, the first film helped introduce the world to Channing Tatum, and this year I’ve become a fan of the guy, so I guess that’s something good it has going for it. But seriously, this franchise is now on its fourth film, with one coming out every other year since 2006, and it’s made nearly $500 million at the worldwide box office on a collective budget that’s under $100 million. So that’s actually good, plus I always say you have to judge a film based on what it wanted to accomplish, and these films never want to be a high-brow thing with good acting, they just want people dancing, and they always achieve that.

Now, that doesn’t change the fact that I personally don’t like these movies very much, and the only one I had reviewed before this one was 2010’s Step Up 3D, which I gave a C+ at the time and have forgotten absolutely everything about by now. And that’s the thing with these films really, they are so invested on the dance sequences, which are indeed pretty great at times, that they have absolutely no interest in surrounding them with any kind of even remotely original storyline or fleshed out characters, even if some of its actors have some charm to them. And a week after you see it you may forget everything about it.

Well, unsurprisingly, then, the new entry in the franchise, titled Step Up Revolution, follows that exact same formula. Sure, the dance numbers look great and have a lot energy to them, but the second those dancing feet stop moving you have a recycled storyline and one-dimensional characters that just don’t really allow you to like the overall result all that much, even if the dancing’s cool, and even if the dancing’s all that the film really cares about anyways.

This time around the dancing is set in Miami, where Emily, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, played by Kathryn McCormick of So You Think You Can Dance “fame”, arrives with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. And, as you might expect, soon thereafter she falls in love with a guy who can dance real well, too. He is Sean, and while Emily is all into pro-dancing, Sean is the leader of a dance crew called The Mob that specializes in really complex and awesome flash mobs.

It’s all dancing fun until the conflict of the movie presents itself. And not to try and force their audiences into thinking while they’re taking in such awesome displays of dancing, the movie goes for the most obvious alternative they have, and they have Emily’s father decide to build a huge hotel in the exact neighborhood that The Mob and its members call home. So before the whole community is displaced and disbanded, Emily must join Sean and the rest of his crew in performing a protest art kind of thing against her father’s project. Yawn.

It’s just a horrible, horrible plot that this one has. There’s not a single dialogue that’s there to actually provide some kind of useful backdrop on a character or to develop another, nothing. Every little thing that takes place while people aren’t dancing is solely there to help set-up the next big dance number, and every kind of turn the film takes will have undoubtedly been easily picked up hours earlier by any half-smart audience because this film is just plain obvious in how it sets up its stuff. Everything here is designed to get either people dancing or some obvious development out of it.

I know it’s dumb to complain about stuff like that in a movie like this, because it’s been obvious from the first film in this franchise that it has absolutely no concern whatsoever with characters or plots, just dancing, and that the actors in it can actually be charming but are just starring here to get paid and to, if they get as lucky as the guy who starred in the first one, make an impression on someone who can give them actually challenging roles. But it’s just to easy to nitpick the hell out of this movie in which everyone seems to be super good-looking and the flash mobs take place out of nowhere and the guys in them seem to have absolutely nothing else to do but wait until a dance number spontaneously breaks out. It’s kind of funny.

If you’re actually thinking about seeing this one though, then chances are you don’t care about a thing I’ve said so far and just want to know how those dance sequences are. Well, they’re quite good, actually. Visually they look really great, and the staging is terrific and the whole stuff is just super well-choreographed and these kids are obviously superbly talented dancers. Though, it must be said, debut director Scott Speer, unlike Jon M. Chu who directed the past two movies, is just too big a fan of editing the numbers like crazy, arguably to make them look cooler, and not only not achieving that, but also taking away a lot of the “wow” moments you would get from just watching these kids do their thing without the crazy number of cuts that take place here.

There you have it. That’s my opinion of Step Up Revolution. I won’t fail it because, like I said, you have to try and judge a movie for what it wanted to achieve; and this one clearly only wanted dancing. But it’s just that every character is a cliché, every line of dialogue is just boring, and every dramatic moment is just rote as hell. And the dancing, though great, was considerably poorly directed in this one when compared to the past films, and it gets me thinking that we’d be better off if these were just like stand-alone dance videos on a YouTube channel, because God knows the connective tissue offered up for them here sucks. But then again, this one’s already doubled its budget at the box office, so we should probably prepare for a new installment in 2014.

Grade: C-

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