Step Up Revolution
Mob Action: Awesome dance sequences meet snoozer story in rote Step Up Revolution.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
After four cracks at it, the Step Up franchise remains incapable of a telling a story that doesn’t make you angry at its stupidity. Apparently it’s too much to ask professional filmmakers to remember that true quality starts with a script, not a choreographer. But then all the Step Up movies have ever cared about is fun dance sequences, so why would Step Up Revolution be any different?
Here’s a good reason why it should care: Even though the dance sequences are cool and inspired in “Revolution,” they are no better or more impressive than what we’ve already seen. If director Scott Speer can’t top what’s come before, and the 3-D adds little, there’s no reason to pay money to see this.
In beautiful Miami, a dance group that calls itself “The Mob” interrupts otherwise tranquil daily activities in order to shamelessly draw attention to itself. The Mob’s goal is to win $100,000 from YouTube for being the first channel to reach 10 million hits. The group is led by Sean (Ryan Guzman) and features computer hacker/co-founder Eddy (Misha Gabriel), DJ Penelope (Cleopatra Coleman), mute street artist Mercury (Michael Langebeck), and more rebellious artist types. You’re not supposed to ask how The Mob can afford its extravagant costumes, makeup, paint and lighting setups, so be sure to overlook that gaping logistical flaw.
Meanwhile, aspiring ballet dancer Emily (Kathryn McCormick) is in town with her rich business developer daddy (Peter Gallagher), and wouldn’t you know it, daddy is planning to tear down The Mob’s home neighborhood along the Miami River. Emily and Sean start to date, which is expected, and because they’re two pretty people who are fun to watch dance, we don’t mind.
In fact, we don’t mind much of the first two-thirds of the movie, largely because the dance sequences are amusing and the story, while predictable, is not yet insultingly bad. No, it’s not until the third act that things really derail, starting with Eddy doing something out of impulsive jealousy and ending with a ridiculously far-fetched and all too convenient finale. This is especially a shame considering this could’ve been the first Step Up to actually be a decent movie on its own terms, but alas it was not meant to be.
The dance sequences are entertaining, though. The opener along Ocean Drive is a high-octane trip, but as a 10-year resident of Miami I couldn’t help but think that in reality locals would be pissed off about the traffic, not jamming along as seen on screen. Other sequences, including those in an art museum and in a converted outdoor parking garage for a formal reception, are creative and nicely shot.
A word on the acting, which you expect to be poor because the filmmakers cast people who are dancers first and actors second. It is poor. We’re talking a half-step above soap opera poor, to the point that you can’t help but tune out the unemotional line readings and desperate attempts at looking sad/frustrated/angry and just go with it. Granted acting isn’t easy, but this isn’t Shakespeare either. When the two leads, Guzman and McCormick, are so raw in terms of acting ability, everything else suffers.
Step Up Revolution is aimed at a hip younger crowd that loves to dance and be free. For that audience, what they get may suffice. For others, you’ll wonder why the noise is so loud.
STEP UP REVOLUTION (2) •Directed by Scott Speer • Starring Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Cleopatra Coleman • Rated PG-13 •97 min •At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas
Must-see Dance Movies:
An American in Paris, 1951 Gene Kelly, George (and Ira) Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, and Paris add up to a classic MGM post-World War II story of expatriate bohemianism, art, love and dance that fearlessly combined new American and old European idioms.
Flashdance, 1983 One of those classic '80s movies of young aspirations abutting societal norms, embellished with evocative music, but not as goofy as Footloose or as sentimental as John Hughes. And Jennifer Beals is too cute for words.
Beat Street, 1984 One of the earliest hip-hop motion pictures (Wild Style was the first), it combines authentic street culture and music with people-friendly Hollywood story arc, meaning, parents and kids can both like it.
Black Swan, 2010 Director Darren Aronofsky made classical ballet engrossing, substantial, scary and unavoidable for modern American audiences, which is quite a trick. And Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis didn't hurt.