Thursday, August 9, 2012

Step Up Revolution - Theatrical Review

Release Date: July 27, 2012

One step can change your world and one movie can change your life, but this ain't it.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC Tyler Galleria 16
Time: 9:50 pm Aug 1, 2012
Projector Type: Digital 3D
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime: 1 hr 35 min
Studio: Summit

Loves: Silly movies about people who dance ALL THE TIME!
Likes: Cool and inventive dance routines
Neutral: Dancers who can't act
Hates: Having all the fun sucked out of my Step Up experience
Should've been called: Step Up 4 Real!

The scene? Miami Florida. The players? A group of flash mob dancers who call themselves The Mob. The play? Cause as much chaos as possible by flash mobbing an unsuspecting populace and film it to be viewed by millions in order to win the grand prize of $100k. In the midst of this competition one of the members of The Mob and low level waiter at the local hotel, Sean (Ryan Guzman) has a chance encounter with a beautiful woman, Emily (Kathryn McCormick) who exhibits some incredible dance moves of her own which quickly earns her a spot on the team. Problems arise however when Emily's father and owner of the hotel,  Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher) cooks up some plans to tear down the local community for a new expansion project. When The Mob finds out they decide to fight back and cause a revolution by doing the one thing they do best, dance!

The Step Up series must be viewed with a certain filter in order to be enjoyed, they are almost critic proof by this point. These films are nothing more than a string of events loosely linked together as an excuse to have some very talented dancers strut their stuff in some pretty amazing dance routines. Each film in the series has progressively gotten more elaborate but they have also gotten more ridiculous as a result. The first Step Up was more of less your typical romance/dance flick with a slightly bigger emphasis on the story, but by the third film we see a kid forced to dance battle his way out of a restroom full of hip hop ninjas led by a man who is wearing a stealth boom box jacket. To say the series started stretching the boundaries of reality would be a severe understatement.

Looks like they are certainly stepping it up.

This fourth entry, Step Up: Revolution, is in some ways a departure from the established Step Up formula. There is still a competition that must be won and an evil business man who must be thwarted by the power of dance, but many of the conventions set up in the previous films such as turf wars and dance battles have been excised. This is a new breed of dancing where the focus is put squarely on the flash mob phenomenon, where a group of performers casually blend into a crowded environment to suddenly break out into dance and put on a series of increasingly outrageous street performances.

This change up to the stereotypical Step up formula was rather refreshing but even with its large crowds of dancers and elaborate set pieces, they never really succeeded in the same way the other films did. Despite being extremely ludicrous in most respects, almost every single dance scene in the previous films had this energy to them, mixed with invigorating music and some incredibly talented dancers, they often times made all those dreary dialog scenes fade away and be replaced with some truly awe inspiring sights. But the problem all films in this series have faced since minute one and still can't overcome is when those dialog scenes take center stage again.

You may not be able to tell, but this is one of the worst sexy dances ever.

You have seen this story play out before countless times, spoiled hot rich girl rebels against her father by following her dreams to be a dancer who then falls for the local hot guy who has a shitty job but just so happens to be part of the biggest group of expert (but non-professional) dancers in the state. That is all you really need to know about this story, there are plenty of other horrible cliches that pop up such as a person hiding a secret that is found out due to an accident which then in turn makes everyone suddenly not be friends which is all resolved only a few minutes later or the horrible corporate suit who wants to destroy people's lives by tearing down their homes to build a hotel but after witnessing the majesty of dance has a change of heart.

Whoops, did that give away too much of the plot? Don't worry, you don't watch these movies to see a story, do you? Of course not, you watch them for the dancing and this movie has that in spades. Flash mobs were an interesting direction to take this series in but when you stop to think about it this was almost inevitable. There has been this steady escalation in scale since the first film that seems to lead naturally into the large spectacles put on display here. Each and every one of the dance sequences are unique, visually stunning at times and all have their own visual style that sets them apart from one another.

Most of the flash mob scenes are interesting, but not very exciting.

Strangely though there isn't much energy or excitement associated with any of the dance numbers in Step Up: Revolution. Watching the flash mob scenes is like watching a carefully constructed series of events that are choreographed to perfection but lack any sense of urgency to them. It is comparable to watching any other sort of stage production where the performers are these highly skilled but emotionally vacant vessels used to express a visual feast but while that works fine for certain productions, it isn't such a good fit for a film that has no real emotional narrative weight to back any of that up with. Watching people dance in Step Up: Revolution is often times interesting and visually striking, but it never really becomes exciting, which is something every other film in this series has accomplished without issue.

These movies are supposed to be fun, they are made with the simple ideal of showing off the talents of some truly gifted individuals in this very strange but entertaining reality where people seem to solve all their issues by dancing. There is no fun to be found here, not even in an ironic way. Everyone just seems to be so darn serious, even in their dances there is this inherent lack of any sort of pulse, they are so robotic and precise in their movements that it feels manufactured instead of spontaneous. But perhaps that is more a problem with the flash mob premise itself more than the performers since the main conceit of that style of dance is that they do a massive amount of preparation before they execute the plan. However, when some old faces show up near the end they spice things up just enough to make the argument that these particular actors just weren't interesting enough to garner any excitement around them.

Two beautiful people being beautiful.

Then you have the completely baffling competition The Mob is competing in. It may be in poor taste to attack this film series for anything concerning its story but this new one takes its stupidity a bit too far. First of all, who is running this mystery competition that is willing to give $100k to a bunch of out of work dancers who post videos on Youtube? Next, who exactly are they competing against? By not showing us their competition it automatically sucks any sort of tension out of the proceedings because there is seemingly no threat of losing. Then there is the most head scratching moment in the entire film when a last minute reveal causes all sorts of issues that shouldn't have even been issues since....(sigh), who cares right?

Step Up: Revolution is a disappointment. It isn't disappointing because of its generic and unoriginal story or bland acting as one would expect though, it is disappointing because it lacks the one thing anyone ever expects out of the series, fun. Weighed down by story that takes it self way too seriously,  a cast of fresh faces that just don't register anything nearing interesting and a soundtrack comprised of mostly dub step remixes that can only be considered a letdown, it all  just makes this a very hollow and strangely uneventful viewing experience. The dance sequences are impressive in their scale and varied settings, but are only visually interesting in the same way fine art is, you can appreciate what it took to make but unless you have a personal investment in it, there just isn't anything there to keep you hooked. Fans of the series should wait for a rental while everyone else should steer clear and...




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