Somehow the dance franchise Step Up has made it to four movies. Don’t ask how, it’s not worth the inevitable brain strain that would go along with trying to answer such a question. Dance movies have somehow become a viable genre once again and we get a few per year. Step Up Revolution is just as ludicrously plotted and boasts the same brand of ridiculous dialogue that we’ve come to expect from the series, and yet it’s also easily one of the most watchable titles in the whole cycle. It’s a project made by filmmakers who recognize that the chances of the audience actually buying the big screen dance troupe as real people or becoming even momentarily emotionally involved in their trials and tribulations is fairly slim. It’s just having too much fun serving up cheese and stellar choreography. The movie isn’t knowing enough to delve into self-mockery or irony, it’s just as painfully earnest as all such ass-shaking cinematic shenanigans, yet at least everyone involved acknowledges the braindead fun and goes with it. It won’t be a huge crossover hit outside of those who refuse to admit that they still watch dance flick, but if you enjoy laughing at these silly movies, this is as great as it gets.
All dance movies these days are about reconciling street dance with another form of popular dance to create something new that makes the underground dance world shit a brick. This time director Scott Speer and writer Jenny Mayer have combined street dance with flash mobs. The protagonists are all members of the not-so-creatively-titled The Mob, a group of folks who stage elaborate dances in public places, leaving behind graffiti art calling card to mark their place and taking only a video for YouTube in the hopes of willing some money for getting 10,000,000 hits. Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddie (Misha Gabriel) run the team with Sean providing the sweet, sweet moves and Eddie offering internet expertise. The group is successful enough that they both still work as waiters at a ritzy Miami hotel (although somehow despite having the same income Eddie has to live rent free with his sister while Eddie has a giant studio space filled with computers and wandering dancers. Not to mention the fact that they can afford to put on massive flash mob performances at a moment’s notice, but again it’s best not to raise issues of logic in a dance movie). One day Sean meets a pretty young thing named Emily (Kathryn McCormick) at the hotel and inevitably they have an immediate attraction.
It turns out the Emily is the rich girl daughter of the hotel’s owner, making them inevitable cross-class-lovers. Emily is a trained dancer who wants to pursue a professional career in a prestigious dance company. Unfortunately her father (Peter Gallagher being all Peter Gallaghery) is a ruthless money-loving developer who not only disapproves of her daughter’s artistic ways, but plans on destroying Sean and Eddie’s beloved beachfront community to make an even fancier hotel. Well, that’s the kind of problem that only flash mob dancing can solve, right? So Emily joins The Mob and they start using their performances as a form of protest against the construction. Eventually, it’s discovered who Emily’s father is and the poo hits the fan within the group, but do you honestly think this movie could possibly not have a happy ending?
First off, as you’ve probably gathered by now, the story is non-existent with holes that two school buses, a tank, and a tricycle could comfortably drive through side-by-side. For once the filmmakers do seem conscious of that and race through the story as quickly as possible to focus on the dancing and making said dancing look pretty. Sure there are scenes that will draw huge, bellowing rounds of unintentional laughter from the audience like when Gallagher tells his daughter she has until the end of the summer to become a professional dancer and thankfully they pass by quickly, packed with (possibly) unplanned camp comedy. The central duo of Ryan Guzman and especially Kathryn McCormick are actually uncommonly strong for this genre with some great chemistry. You wouldn’t want either of them to act in anything other than pop movie fluff, but considering some of the embarrassing performances by dancers in most of these movies, they ain’t that bad.
The dance sequences themselves are actually quite enjoyable as well. The flash mob concept allows for some very creative sequences such as one in an art gallery with dancers posing as sculptures and mingling with black light art works (with a little strobe light thrown in for good measure). Add some nice 3D photography to the dance sequence sundae and there are some incredible visual sequences worthy of the big screen treatment. Speer goes off the rails in the climax involving bungee cords and parkour performers that’s too long and a bit indulgent, but for the most part these are highly entertaining set pieces actually worth watching rather than the perfunctory booty shaking sessions that often comprise most dance flicks. Now, Step Up Revolution is still dumb and overlong with a story completely lacking in surprises and characters who have no life or personality beyond their slot in The Mob. On any rational form of critical discourse, it’s a bad movie and is not something for cinephiles to salivate over. Yet, if you’re part of the quiet and embarrassed army who keep this genre alive, the good news is that Step Up Revoltion is about as good as a dance movie can be. The chances of a dance flick ever being clever or resonant enough to become a crossover hit are about on par with the chances of winning the lottery while being struck by lightening and at least a movie like this makes the viewing experience for non-believers as painless as possible.