Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
While Hollywood continues to try and revive the musical, one franchise focused on the world of dance has been chugging along since 2006 with enough success to now spawn a third sequel: Step Up Revolution. And while I personally find the launching of Channing Tatum’s film career in Step Up a misdemeanor crime against cinema, I will admit to enjoying the franchise for its core element of dancing.
In this latest installment, a group of dancers in Miami going by the moniker “The Mob” are using flash mobs in an attempt to win a YouTube contest (at least both concepts are still in use as of 2012, I look forward to laughing at this concept down the road). Along the way, a wealthy hotel magnate (Peter Gallagher with trimmed eyebrows) threatens to demolish their neighborhood to build a high-end waterfront district. Oh, and to create “drama”, his daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick) is an aspiring contemporary dancer trying to get into a prestigious academy (whose founder is played by real-life choreographer Mia Michaels). Emily needs inspiration and The Mob is just the thing! Hooray! But what will her Daddy think? Oh my!? It’s like Shakespeare meets Footloose … well, maybe Frank Shakespeare meets the 2011 remake of Footloose.
To no surprise, the acting is laughable; the script perhaps even more so. However, this may be some of the best dancing in the series. McCormick was the last woman standing on her season of So You Think You Can Dance and her ability outshines any of the female leads to this point (call me!). In terms of group routines, a few of the dance battles in Step Up 3D could plead their case but director Scott Speer did a better job here of allowing the routines to play out in slightly longer cuts (slightly).
The 3D is a mixed bag so purchase the right to use those tinted lenses at your own discretion. Thankfully, because the filmmakers made sure to use the neon colors Miami is so well known for in its art deco style, the dulling effect normally associated with the glasses is lessened. Some of the sets and group numbers are aided by a sense of immersion though nearly every motion thrown towards the camera fails miserably. As a friend pointed out after the movie, the aesthetic is very similar to watching CSI: Miami (though there’s a lot more dancing and a lot less David Caruso).
For people more well versed in the films that have come before, Adam G. Sevani, Mari Koda, and Chadd Smith make a cameo appearance during the finale and Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss is back, playing the same role he did in the previous movie. These little touches provide continuity for fans and although I only show up to see the dancing, maybe … just maybe … trying to bring back the key players from each film in an upcoming installment will create the first real sense of drama or gravitas in the franchise’s entire run.
If you’re trying to decide if my opinion jibes with your expectations, keep in mind that my DVR does include So You Think You Can Dance. Having that connection makes seeing former dancers and choreographers from the show get involved a welcome bonus; and the results are in the routines. Of course, there’s no excusing the formulaic and poorly executed plots. Anyone going to these films looking to take notes on screenwriting or acting has chosen poorly. It’s all about pretty people dancing and anyone expecting more is just chasing disappointment. That being said, Step Up Revolution will satiate those aware of the limitations.
Step Up Revolution hits theaters on July 27, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for some suggestive dancing and language.