There are so many perils to putting dance on film. It’s a sliding scale that can easily tip when a movie piles on dance sequences and weakens the script or contains fewer dance numbers for the sake of plot exposition. Few movies support the two arts on equal footing, just like finding an actor accomplished enough to deliver dialog and dance with rhythm is a rarity.
All that to say, I wanted STEP UP REVOLUTION to step up its game, not trip over it.
If you’ve come across any of the previous installments of the STEP UP series, then you know it starts with a girl/guy from the wrong side of the tracks meeting a male/female dancer that challenges them to do better. The fourth helping is relocated to Miami and jazzed up as a 3D spectacle. Cue music!
So now that we’ve seen this layout four times, what does that mean for our actors and dancers? Well, it means the material’s a little stiff, something I don’t believe Ryan Guzman and Katheryn McCormick managed to pull off. The dancing’s there, but only so many frustrated sighs and Kristen Stewart-esque eyes will only get you so much emotion.
Peter Ghallagher as the greedy Mr. Anderson is possibly the most fun actor to watch, and he never breaks into a two-step.
Unlike previous STEP UPs, where the focus was on a contest/scholarship/turf war, we’re treated to an Occupy-lite version of using performance art to promote revolution. You see, our crew affectionately known as The Mob is about to lose their waterfront homes in the name of all-important condos and hotels. Well, they’re not gonna take it, and we get the best dance routine done in business attire. The choreography is crisp and clean and the dubstep actually works quite well, engrossing enough to make me forget the silly acting preceding it. I could almost forgive them. Almost.
Despite the fact that there are four choreographers listed on the IMDB credits, even a few of the routines felt flat. After a splashy start on Miami’s Ocean Drive, we move to a salsa club that serves as their hangout (bonus points for the Ricky nod from I LOVE LUCY) that oddly has little salsa involved. When there is finally a salsa routine, the steps aren’t as advanced as the rest of the dances and only adds a touch of showcase styling. It’s only thirty seconds, something dancers can pick up on in an afternoon.
That’s a letdown in a dance movie that shouldn’t exist, especially since dancing is THE draw of the series.
A few of the other routines over-extended their stay, drawing out unnecessarily like the ambush hip-hop number featuring gas masks meant to scare developers away. The 3D was also hit or miss, working in line with the dancers to make each stand out or against them when objects (namely the computer animated money falling from the sky) would blur or block the dancing that should be the focus of the scene.
However, REVOLUTION does its fan service with justice, bringing back familiar faces from previous movies (no Channing Tatum, he’s only dancing in MAGIC MIKE for the summer). But for fans of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, there’s alumni in The Mob including leading lady Katheryn McCormick, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, and Phillip Chbeeb, and modern choreographer/judge Mia Michaels plays an artsy dance company head. Producer Adam Shankman is also a frequent judge on the show. I know, I wish Nigel Lythgoe could have found time to walk on as a dancing businessman.
So it’s a mixed bag. Approach the dance floor with caution.