Film Review – Step Up Revolution
Step Up Revolution (2012) is exactly the kind of movie you would expect with the title Step Up Revolution. Now, I must confess, I was a bit optimistic walking into this movie. Each of the previous films, beginning with the first, Step Up (2006), have gotten progressively better, with Step Up 3D (2010) toeing the line of actually being a good movie. Unfortunately, this latest outing is a Step Back (see what I did there?) from the franchise’s upward trend. Clearly, this film wasn’t striving to be any more than what it is—goofy, silly, filled to the brim with dance moves, and possessing a well-intentioned spirit—I get that. The problem is, it is so non-ambitious that it turns itself into a shallow, uninspired, run-of-the-mill dance movie. You can walk into any kind of dance competition right now and find performances far more entertaining and exciting than what’s here.
I knew that I wasn’t going to get an award-winning movie, so what I expected was a film that at least had some good and creative dance scenes. While all of the dancers featured were extremely talented, the direction by Scott Speer didn’t allow for us to really see what they were doing. Edits were made far too often to really see the dancers perform, and scenes were so short that they left little to be remembered. There were a few dances that felt as if they lasted only about a minute or so; everything else seemed like a hodge-podge of bad music video editing. Okay, there were a few scenes that looked pretty decent (two, really—one featuring a routine involving money, and the other, the finale), but other than that, the editing, staging, and choreography wasn’t unlike anything we have seen before.
And that’s the toughest part of the whole thing, because if the dancing wasn’t going to save the movie, the story and acting sure weren’t going to either. This time, we are brought into the world of Miami, where a dance group known as The Mob roam the streets, ready to bust out in a routine in front of unsuspecting audiences. The Mob specializes in flash mobbing—surprise performances in very public areas. The Mob has entered a YouTube competition where the first group to reach ten million views gets a large monetary reward. So what’s the message? Well, instead of honing your craft and creating a career perfecting an art form, you can create a massive public disturbance and get rich quick! Alrighty then!
Within this story is the obligatory, contrived romance. One half is Sean (Ryan Guzman), a tall, dark, and handsome kid who is also the leader of The Mob. He is their main choreographer, he stages and plans their performances like intricate bank heists, and every action the crew makes has to go through his approval first. The other half is Emily (Kathryn McCormick), a talented ballet dancer who wishes to join a premiere dance academy but has difficulty mastering the emotion behind her technique. Literally 30 seconds after meeting, Sean and Emily perform a sexy routine in front of an on-looking crowd (if I had known things could be that easy, my younger years wouldn’t have been so embarrassing!). Things appear to be on the right track for our two lovers, until we learn that Emily’s father, Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher), has plans for his business to buy the strip of land where the dancers hang out, and force them (and the local businesses) out of their ‘hood.
Is it really too much to ask for a dance film that has good dancing and a good story? I’m not saying that this needs to be West Side Story (1961) or Black Swan (2010), but we need something more than flashy dance moves to really keep us attached to the film. The story here is mediocre at best, the “Revolution” title hinting that dance can make a difference. That’s a fair enough premise, but more often than not I felt the film was saying “Hey big corporations! Look how cool our dance moves are! That’s enough to make you change your mind about making a billion dollars, right?!” If that was tough for you to read, that’s how tough it is to buy into the reality of this plot. This film had neither a good story nor good dance scenes, and even though it is only ninety-seven minutes long, I started checking my watch a good forty minutes in.
I like musicals and I like dance films, which is why I find myself being tough on a movie like Step Up Revolution. Dance is a great and expressive art form, so why can’t it be displayed in a great and expressive film? Step Up 3D, while not being a terrific movie itself, at least attempted to try something fresh and different with its dance routines and visual aesthetics. This movie, unfortunately, settles for the status quo.
Final Grade: C-