There’s a certain quality to the Step Up series. They aren’t good movies, but thanks to competent directing and a host of amazing dance sequences they’re fun to watch for the most part. They’re the kind of films where you ignore the plot and focus on what was obviously the filmmaker’s focus: the dancing. For the last three films in the series this is something you could do and it made the movies good in their own way.
Enter Step Up Revolution, a movie devoid of the qualities that make stupid dance movies fun. Completely missing the point of a dance movie — to show off great dancing — this is a movie almost completely devoid of anything fun and twice as boring as paint drying. By the end of its running time not even the relative coolness of the final dance sequence got me interested. This is just bad movie making.
Step Up Revolution
Director: Scott Speer
Release Date: July 27, 2012
Last week a clip of the first dance number for Step Up Revolution came out and it had me worried. The clip had some pretty cool dancing on it, but it focused more on theatrics than the dance itself. It was an overblown number leading more towards spectacular (read:relying on spectacle, not good) Busby Berkely-style dance numbers than talent-driven dances like the previous films. Nothing against Busby Berkely, whose over-the-top musicals are sometimes works of art, but for a series which has defined itself on blowing you away with impressive dancing Step Up Revolution instead decides to attempt to wow you with middling spectacle.
A lot of this is shift in focus on the dance numbers is caused by the shift in focus on the plot. The last two films were about dance battles, which lent an air of triumph and tension to most of the dance sequences. However, Revolution veers away from this instead focusing on a dance crew called The Mob who trendily go out and perform flash mob dance routines on a truly epic scale. Their goal is to be the first YouTube video submitted to a competition to get 10 million hits and thus win a grand prize so that they don’t have to be poor kids from the mean streets of Miami anymore. Of course this all changes when an evil developer wants to tear down their charming community and build a new luxury area. Now The Mob has to step up (get it) and use their dance skills to send a message. Thus all the dances are staged events outside that rely on cool tricks rather than cool dancing.
On a more micro level the film follows the head of The Mob, Sean (Ryan Guzman) falls in love with the daughter, Emily (Kathryn McCormick), of the evil capitalist trying to tear down his hood. Emily is trying to become a professional dance and when the sparks fly between her and Sean she joins The Mob to help her get more personality into her dance. In the process she ends up betraying her father and splitting up Sean and his best friend. It is a plot ripped right out of a book called Worst Plot in the World and so detached from reality that even the most liberal, corporation hating hippie in the world would stop and scratch their head about the way “evil corporations” are treated. But even the most idiotic plot can be tolerated if the dancing is good or the spectacle is great enough.
There would actually be no problem with the new focus of spectacle over dance if director Scott Speer had any clue how to direct either. Unlike the last two film’s director Jon M. Chur, who has a visual style that actually pops and could shoot almost anything and make it look cool, Speer seems to have no care for either style of continuity in his dance numbers. Spectacle works if you can keep it cohesive and making sense, but Speer and his editor instead chop his dance sequences together like one shot doesn’t affect the other. This leads to dance numbers that are confusingly not numbers, but instead a bunch of different shots pieced together over incessant dubstep — make the base stop, please. There’s no flash to his directing and unlike the last film, where the 3D was used to stretch the dance floor, the 3D here comes across with about as much depth as the characters have, which is to say none at all.
Even when the dance numbers do have some cool aspects to them thanks to the choreography or admittedly cool stunts, Speer’s lack of vision tears them a part. A number near the middle of the film taking place in the lobby of an office building could have been stellar. The entire dance troupe in black suites flash mobbing on a movie escalator, followed by an extensive dance where money showers down on them had a lot of the right ingredients. However, there’s no flow to the scene and the quality dancing gets hacked to pieces by the editing. The same goes for the films conclusion, which has a massive dance sequences in the crates of a shipping dock. There are some absolutely stellar sequences in here that work only when Steer decides to stop chopping up the sequence. It’s a shame that something that could have been amazing just isn’t.
It may seem kind of ridiculous to come down so harshly on a movie that is obviously going to be idiotic. But the previous Step Up films made up for this idiocy by delivering great dance numbers that were fun to watch. I always relate it back to a bad kung-fu movie: you’re going in for the fights, not the story. In this case you’re going in for the dancing, not the story. However, when the dancing is butchered you’ve got nothing to focus on but the story, and when that’s even worse than usual you’ve got a movie that is just plain awful. Stepping up never felt so backward.