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Step Up Revolution
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by Brett Gallman

"A mob story."
2 stars

Back in the 60s, AIP helped to mold the teen movie into existence with their series of beach party films starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. You could practically set your watch to them--not only did you know one (or more) would arrive every year, but they’d all essentially follow the same formula that would involve break-ups, reconciliations, and dancing on the beach. The films have had spiritual successors over the years (the 80s trashed up the beach party genre in the only way they knew how--excessively), and the modern iteration is the “Step Up” series, where the kids just want pretty much the same thing: to dance, gyrate, and dry-hump the night away.

This fourth entry carries the subtitle “revolution” and supposes it perhaps isn’t enough to no longer just dance--it has to mean something, at least that’s what Sean (Ryan Guzman) believes. He’s a hotel waiter by day, and his job leads him to a chance encounter with Emily (Kathryn McCormick), a local ballet dancer with professional aspirations. The two hit it off, but, as it turns out, he’s in the mob--a highly coordinated flash mob (they call themselves “The Mob,” in case you were wondering how much ingenuity the film has to offer) that terrorizes Miami with impromptu dance numbers.

But that’s not the problem here! Instead, the big conflict is Emily’s dad (Peter Gallagher), a local business tycoon who has his sights set on building on the strip where Sean and his crew live, and the only solution? Dancing.

This might not necessarily be a teen movie (they’re all twentysomethings), but it inhabits the same idealistic space where the world is fixed to an easy narrative curve: the happy montage, the sad montage, the big preparation montage, and the big dance-off that tidily wraps everything up (though, in this case, there’s an insidious insistence that the revolution might actually be for sale if the right shoe company comes along).

Obviously, there’s nothing revolutionary about “Step Up: Revolution.” Not only has the same skeletal “dancing boy meets dancing girl” plot been done three times before in this series, but the “kids band together to thwart a greedy corporate mogul” has been done so much that the gang from Bayside High even did it in “Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style” (I like to think that Mario Lopez’s brief cameo in “Step Up 4” is an acknowledgement of this).

As such, it’s cliché-ridden, trite, and agreeable bullshit that doesn’t put up much of a fuss, save for an odd turn when The Mob goes militant, complete with gas masks and tear gas, which would be a fine move if “Step Up: Revolution” were an examination of dogmatism and moderation in protest-minded dance troupes, but that it ain’t. Plenty of pedestrian, teeny-bopper melodrama is on display and made all the more wince-inducing by the abundance of non-actors. Our two leads, Guzman and McCormick, are dancers first, and it often shows anytime the two aren’t asked to update the routine from “Dirty Dancing.” Excusing the film of this is tempting given the nature of this series, but this casting is a long way form the likes of Channing Tatum and even Briana Evigan, who featured in the first two films.

Still, the mentality is the same--you don’t watch a “Step Up” film for the acting and story any more than you watch “Cheerleader Camp” for its thoughts on gender roles in horror films. Instead, the franchise’s calling card are the pyrotechnic displays of choreography--which are literally pyrotechnic in this case since once of the flash mobsters is an expert in special effects (another member of the group--the graffiti artist--doesn’t speak a work, presumably because everyone else is doing a fine job of embarrassing themselves whenever they open their mouths). At any rate, the numbers are fine and dazzling since the actors (and the hordes of extras) are much more nimble and spry than the script. Effects work in blockbuster filmmaking has delivered a lot of spectacle, but the bodily contortions and the fluidity of the choreography here are legitimately awe-inducing at times.

Does it really mean anything, though? Of course not. The film probably thinks it does since it’s deadpan and earnest in spite of the winking fan-service (series mascot Moose appears, thus maintaining the fabric of "Step Up's" space-time continuum), which might be the most charming thing about it. Whenever the next one inevitably wheels itself out, it should go for broke; in fact, just make it the “Fast Five” of the series, an all-star gathering where the characters have to stage a dance-off to fend off nothing less than the apocalypse or something.

At least in that case we won’t be saddled with forced sappiness and stale beats that draw attention to themselves in the worst possible way. Consider the scene in “Step Up: Revolution” when Sean gives his “I just want to be somebody” spiel to Emily and asks her if it’s lame. Her mouth says “no,” but our own thoughts say “yes, just as lame as it was the first three times.” Whether or not you can get past that will determine if you can tap along to the beat, and, as the guy who can find some merit in all twelve “Friday the 13th” movies, I’m in no position to judge.

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originally posted: 07/27/12 13:10:48
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User Comments

11/18/12 jim filipe awesome the dance style nd the graffiti 5 stars
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  27-Jul-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2012



Directed by
  Scott Speer

Written by
  Jenny Mayer

  Alyson Stoner
  Adam G. Sevani
  Chadd Smith
  Stephen Boss
  Jessica Guadix
  Megan Boone

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