Dance is the Highlight in Simplistic ‘Step Up Revolution’

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CHICAGO – The beauty of the movies is their ability to create weird parallel universes, where young dance crews have the choreography skills of a hip-hop Bob Fosse, the time/funding to create this dance and a law enforcement culture that allows it. Welcome to the “Step Up Revolution.”

This the fourth installment of the Step Up series of films, and the first two helped launch the career of Channing Tatum. There is a major difference in this chapter – instead of dance crews competing with one another, they use their choreographic power to create flash mobs. This makes for some energetic and entertaining dance moments in this exercise, but the story in between the grooves is ludicrous and laughable. But were there ever such complaints about a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland similarity back in the day? As in those features, it’s not about the story, it’s about hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-flash-mob.

Sean (Ryan Guzman) is a guy from the wrong side of the tracks in Miami, if the wrong side of the tracks is now defined by a comfortable middle class house and a hip salsa club down the street. Like Batman, he morphs into the leader of The Mob, a dance crew who stage elaborate flash mobs (planned outbreaks of dancing in public, usually filmed and played on YouTube). They are seeking a monetary prize in a download contest, with the clear winner being YouTube.

Step Up Revolution
Dancers Take to the Streets in ‘Step Up Revolution’
Photo credit: Sam Emerson for Summit Entertainment

Sean works at a hotel, owned by affable land baron from Cleveland named Anderson (Peter Gallagher), and his daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick). Emily is an aspiring fine arts dancer, in Miami to compete for a spot in a world renown troupe. Emily and Sean meet, dancing of course, and the “Juliet” longs to be in the “Romeo’s” world. She joins The Mob, even when they start protesting her Dad’s hotel project that will bulldoze Sean’s neighborhood. Can dance defeat capitalism? Maybe in this universe.

We get it. In this story, George Bailey has a three-day beard growth and washboard abs, and Mr. Potter wears nice suits and really isn’t a villain. Yep, the story is recycled from everywhere and is not the point of the experience. It is the dance moments, which are creatively rendered both in choreography and the way the director (Scott Speer) puts them together. There are a ton of movement styles in the movie, including the aforementioned Fosse. The flash mob spotlight is on a “Mad Men” style anti-development protest, with a follow-up that was creepily reminiscent of the recent Colorado shooting incident. Both had impact though, and both were strangely alluring.

The two leads have a decent chemistry, but it would be hard to imagine each of these beautiful creatures being free of any sexual politics. Guzman was a little more natural, and handled even the dopiest lines with ease. McCormick was a more tentative actor, but expressed herself spectacularly when she was dancing. She is a veteran of the “So You Think You Can Dance” competition show, and that experience had to prepare her for the various styles she expresses. There is a pas de deux (ballet) that is the centerpiece of Sean and Emily’s relationship, and it plays out in the conclusion. They communicate their love through this odd coda, but dammit, it worked and spoke to McCormick’s immense dance talent.

It’s impossible to wonder how they would put a better story together, the screenplay assignment for the Step Up series would challenge Robert Towne. But at least they needed to cast the supporting roles a little better. Sean’s sister (Megan Boone), for example, recited her lines as if at gunpoint. The salsa bar that Sean and his crew hang out at is movie set sharp, in contrast to the pool bar at the luxury hotel, which looks like death by theme. Yes, the neighborhood is symbolically the 99% in the movie, minus the large offers of cash from the developers for their properties. The salsa bar owner says he “rents,” but would the owner turn down the ready cash if the price was right? Nope.

Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick’
Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Emily (Kathryn McCormick) are a Coosome Twosome in ‘Step Up Revolution’
Photo credit: Sam Emerson for Summit Entertainment

See, when there is an attempt to analyze a Step Up movie, any injection of reality is fool’s gold. The Mob are outsiders, but are also insiders, with none of the punishing psychosis that sometimes characterizes “the other side of the tracks.” Hey kids, let’s get a loft space and enough costumes (that fit) to supply a road company of “Follies.”

Sitting in the first showing of the morning for “Step Up Revolution.” with the theater three quarters full, indicates that the audience is primed for this entertainment. When it comes to the dance, bring on the moves and damn the critical torpedoes.

“Step Up Revolution” opens everywhere July 27th. See local listings for 3D showings, show times and theaters. Featuring Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Peter Gallagher, Cleopatra Coleman and Misha Gabriel. Screenplay by Jenny Mayer. Directed by Scott Speer. Rated “PG-13.” Click here for the HollywoodChicago.com interview with Ryan Guzman and Kathryn McCormick of “Step Up Revolution.”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2012 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Manny be down's picture

"Step Up:Revolution"

What can I say bad acting,good dancing

ziggy one of the best's picture

Step Up

Gr8 dancing a lot of gr8 dance steps that were awesome

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