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Friday, July 27, 2012

‘Step Up Revolution’ Is A Dance-tastic Step Down


Step Up Revolution:  2 out of 5
Sean:  The Mob is our way to shout.  It’s like us say, “listen up, we exist.”
People may have to stick with me on this, but I, myself, have stuck with this Step Up franchise for no discernible reason, beyond the fact that the choreography has always been impressive.  Despite the lack of Channing Tatum (who began as a bland, pretty face in the first Step Up and is now a hot commodity all over), the series has actually gotten ‘better’ with each entry…until now.  Yes, Step Up Revolution has a similarly generic story and weak characters that serve as the same elements that we are not supposed to care about, but the other films seemed better.  I was still more engaged with the previous entries and found the dances to be really involving.  This film has some elaborate dance sequences and the 3D looks pretty good, but everything around those aspects feels even lazier this time around than normal.  I don’t ask for a lot from these movies, but I do wish I was more entertained with this one.


The story is set in Miami and revolves around two people from opposite sides of society.  One is a street rat…ok, he has a home, is employed, and seems generally clean (despite maintaining the same level of stubble on his face) and his name is Sean (Ryan Guzman).  Sean is the leader of ‘The Mob’, a flash mob group that appears in various places around town to unleash incredibly elaborate dance routines in public-wide display.  The hope is that the videos of these events will push The Mob’s YouTube page to over 10 million hits, allowing them to receive a $100,000 grand prize and other opportunities.  The other character of note is Emily (Kathryn McCormick), the daughter of the rich real-estate tycoon (Peter Gallagher), who is a gifted dancer.  She of course wants to dance professionally, but is also attracted to Sean and the idea of The Mob.  The story gets more ‘complicated’ when Emily’s father threatens the very neighborhood where The Mob comes from.  With his plans to take down that part of Miami and build new, fancy real estate over it, The Mob is forced to go from performance art to protest art, in an effort to send a message by occupying Miami Beach and dancing with purpose.  Meanwhile, Emily just wants to find a way to break away from the norm and create some original dances in order to succeed.

It does not mean much for me, or anyone really, were I to call into question the caliber of acting in this film or the story that it presents.  It amounts to the same sort of criticism I leveled at the Navy SEAL action flick Act of Valor.  What matters, obviously, are the dance sequences, which there are good numbers of and I can address later.  In regards to the movie as a whole, the reason I am not as warm to this Step Up film, as opposed to the others, is because I felt a lack of energy.  Regardless of what went on in the prior films, I never felt bored watching them.  ‘Revolution’, for whatever reason, felt like a chore to get through, in between the scenes of elaborate, sometime impressive, and over-the-top routines that are unexplained in planning, aside from brief glimpses of maps and such.


Getting to the dance sequences, there are some creative routines here and I liked a lot of them.  In particular I enjoyed one that takes place in a restaurant and another that is basically an assault on an art museum.  I have no reason to question the logic of how The Mob plans, rehearses, and sets up everything that they are able to accomplish, I am fine enough with just getting to see it and listen to the ‘hot new soundtrack’.  With that said, I do think the film suffers directorially in comparison to the prior two films.  Both ‘The Streets’ and ‘3D’ were directed by Jon M. Chu and looked great.  I constantly equated his work on the dance sequences to great action sequences, and to no surprise, but instead excitement, I was happy to see him take on the directorial role for GI JOE: Retaliation, despite its apparent, recent issues.  Step Up Revolution was directed by Scott Speer, who more or less does only an adequate job of putting the film together and making the dance sequences watchable, but compared to Step Up 3D, they are not as visually dynamic.  The 3D looks good here and I the settings and ideas presented in a lot of the dances, but it felt like a step back from scenes like the huge one-take in ‘3D’ or even the ridiculous rain-soaked finally from ‘The Streets’.  The editing felt like it was constantly getting in the way of showing the full scope of the dances this time around, despite having a lot of intricate setups and getting across the concept of some pretty big ideas.  

Again, I do recognize a lot of the talent on display and find many aspects of it commendable, but in the realm of this series, I did not find ‘Revolution’ to be as ambitious as it could have been.  From a dance standpoint, again, there are some neat ideas, which includes the final dance sequence as well.  I do wish the protest dancing factored in more.  This concept is introduced and it takes the series to an interesting area, where it could address the financial crisis and economic issues (hey, just like The Dark Knight Rises, a week prior!), but little is done and the film ends up pulling a complete reversal in final minutes.  Now, I didn’t expect Step Up to really delve deep into this sort of social commentary, but doing nothing with it is just sort irritating, regardless of how fun it is to see dances invading a business place.


Similar to another franchise I also have a weird love for, I can most easily compare the Step Up franchise to The Fast and the Furious films.  Step Up Revolution features some impressive action sequences (in the form of elaborate dances), but feels lesser as a whole.  The first film in both franchises set everything up appropriately enough.  The second films are both completely ridiculous, but weirdly entertaining to me.  The third films are arguably the best of the series for me (until Fast Five came along).  Yet the fourth films both felt underwhelming.  Hopefully Step Five can bring back its initial star and really raise the bar for the better.
Emily:  We can change things.

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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