Cliches, but you can dance to them
By Sean O’Connell
Friday, July 27, 2012
Despite its title, audiences shouldn’t expect anything revolutionary from the fourth chapter in the “Step Up” franchise. “Step Up: Familiar Ground” or “Step Up: You’ve Seen All This Before” would be more accurate, but Summit Entertainment’s marketing department knows that wouldn’t help sell tickets.
By proudly waving its dance-to-live flag, “Step Up” actually falls in lockstep with a proud lineage of body-rocking dramas. The toned specimens bending and kicking through “Revolution” love talking about “breaking the rules” when it comes to their attention-grabbing choreography.
At the same time, the film desperately clings to exactly the same rigid, rage-against-the-machine screenwriting tropes that defined its various predecessors. The four “Step Up” films couldn’t exist without “You Got Served,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Footloose” (the original and its remake), “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” “Flashdance,” “Saturday Night Fever” and, yes, even “West Side Story.”
Director Scott Speer transports audiences to Miami, where poor but virtuous dancers Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel) strategically plan flash mobs around South Beach’s stylish neighborhoods. They dance to express themselves . . . but also to get their video clips on YouTube, where they’re racing other Internet sensations in a contest that awards $100,000 to the first video to amass 10 million hits. In our Internet age, exposure’s almost as valuable as actual cash.
Sean eventually gets distracted, though, when he instantly falls for Emily (Kathryn McCormick). A skilled ballerina with a taste for bad boys, Emily also happens to be the rich daughter of a greedy real-estate entrepreneur (a typecast Peter Gallagher) who plans to bulldoze Sean and Eddy’s neighborhood to make room for a sleek hotel and business park.
Boy, I sure hope these dance-crazy kids can figure out some way to raise enough money and/or awareness to prevent the evil tycoon from decimating a chunk of Miami’s thriving cultural community.
The overused chase-your-dreams clich propping up “Step Up Revolution” almost shaves the edges off the film’s electric choreography, but the young and nimble cast eventually powers through the obvious screenwriting with a combustible jolt of sweat, sand, energy, heart and suggestive choreography.
The “Revolution” dance sequences are exquisite, with the film easily dividing into a series of memorable music videos staged in recognizable Miami locales. So long as “Step Up” keeps dancing, it’s possible to forgive its flaws. Too bad the insufficient character work bridging the dance scenes routinely drags “Revolution” back down to Earth. Guzman, McCormick and their attractive castmates clearly were hired for their dance skills, not their nonexistent acting chops.
It’s worth noting that “Revolution” is available in 3-D, where Speer’s candy-coated South Florida cinematography pops off the screen and dancers’ limbs extend into the audience as the cast bends and contorts at impossible angles. But my eye continually wandered to the palm trees, aqua-blue pool water, sandy beach and bikini-clad bodies that beckoned from the “Revolution” screen. Considering the clichd storyline and lackluster acting, maybe it’s South Beach that deserves top billing on the “Revolution” poster. At the very least, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau owes Speer and his producers a fruit basket in exchange for all of this free advertising.
Contains some suggestive dancing and language.