Step Up Revolution Directed by: Scott Speer Cast: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Peter Gallagher Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 27, 2012
PLOT: A group of dancers in Miami called "The Mob" (featuring Guzman and McCormick) try to stop an evil hotel owner (Gallagher) from tearing down their neighborhood.
WHO'S IT FOR? This might be the first movie to ever decide its audience in terms of hat-wearers. Do you wear a baseball cap? If not, move on. If you do, do you wear said baseball cap backwards, and think it's cool? Step Up Revolution might be right for you. Being a teenager would help too.
EXPECTATIONS: As far as I was concerned, that hasn't really been a "bad, bad, bad!" Step Up movie. Tatum and future wife Jenna Dewan brought great chemistry to Step Up, the second film had a couple great sequences, and Step Up 3D was probably the best in the franchise. I didn't beg for a fourth one, but I was curious as to where this series could go next. Would the changing of director guard from Jon M. Chu (Never Say Never and Step Up 3D) be that big of a deal?
Ryan Guzman as Sean: Wearing the hip hop pants that once launched Channing Tatum to Magic Mike-like objectivity, Guzman is often guilty of turning generic interactions into posing sessions when he slumps his shoulders, crooks his neck, and purses his lips, even when just standing. Making Sean into a guy whose dreams of modeling override his desire to stand like an actual human being, this generic character stays vanilla, with a cheesy backwards cap on top. Score: 2
Kathryn McCormick as Emily: An outsider to the "slums" of Miami who "grew up in hotels," Emily is too delicate to make us believe this growing dancer could ever stand tall for anything. Her voice tone is even too soft to be taken seriously with her outright expressions, whether they be of love or anger. Though she tries to exercise some anti-daddy rebelliousness, this budding dancer is more dandelion than daffodil. Unintentionally, she represents the pushover politics of those who make surface-level statements. Score: 2
Peter Gallagher as Mr. Anderson: Whenever whippersnappers get together to grind their junk each on each other on a beach, there's always a greedy old man who wants to turn their boogaloos into shopping malls. In Step Up Revolution, that greedy old man is played by Gallagher. Aside from adding a tinge of sympathy to the daddy daughter subplot, Gallagher plays this character as many have done before, in similarly forgettable performances. Score: 2
TALKING: Step Up Revolution talks about the importance of a "voice," but with its clichés and shallow statements, doesn't earn the right to have one. Stealing phrases usually reserved for forgettable movie posters, character statements are whittled down to generic "Break the rules, speak your voice, be heard, take control!" There isn't one sincere statement in this "rebellious" movie made to capitalize on the chic-ness of being in America's hottest new club, the 99%. Score: 2
SIGHTS: The dance sequences are impressive, and are best remembered if you can forget their silly locations (an art museum! a corporate lobby!) Director Speer does a disservice to his centerpieces by capturing them with a dull camera, often opting to let the grooves play out in lazy wide-shots, unless he can throw in a tracking shot to run down an aisle or move across the dance floor. As for other stuff, there are too many establishing shots of pool-departing bikini booties, beach bods, and rich guy skyscrapers to give any tangible sense of the "true" Miami culture that everyone tries to save in this movie. When it comes to the city having meaningful landscape, all we can hold onto is the salsa bar all the dancers seem to frequent. And the 3D? Not necessary. This definitely ain't Pina. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Songs from performers like M.I.A, Travis Barker, Diplo, Jennifer Lopez, and Timbaland all make their way into the film's soundtrack. Of this bunch, the tune that stands out is "To Build A Home," a mopey yet kind of pretty song by a group called Cinematic Orchestra. More interesting than what has made it to the Step Up Revolution soundtrack are the odder parts that have been left out. Like Magic Mike, the music of the film consatly embraces the rise of dubstep music, like with a curious genre remix of Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" by Zeds Dead (the full version on Youtube gets old before it is even older) To throw stingy critics and other dragged-in old farts for a loop, a Shostakovich string quartet is also sampled before leading to a rebellious yet elegant dance number. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: I have to admit, I was a little happy to see Moose (Adam G. Sevani) again in the final dance sequence. Though it was brief, it reminded me of better Step Up days.
ENDING: Indicative of the shallowness of this whole movie, the ending confirms that there is no moral hope for anyone who thinks this movie is right. Obama teens are in trouble if they think this conclusion is triumphant.
QUESTIONS: You can read my interview with lead actors Guzman and McCormack soon when I post it. We talked about cats!
REWATCHABILITY: The dance sequences might hold up on a casual Youtube re-watch, but their set-ups, (meaning everything else,) would struggle to hold one's attention in a second viewing.
Step Up Revolution is a juvenile sequel to a group of films that now all seem like Saturday Night Fever in comparison. While the previous movies might have been handicapped by "white boy" corniness and dated soundtracks, this movie does even worse by taking viewers back to a story structure that the kids who see this movie won't realize is the stuff their grandparents used to bump 'n grind to decades ago. It's the same convention of dancing David and greedy Goliath, but this time with a weak correlation to the current financial climate, in which the kids have picked up on what's cool about money (shoe companies!) and what's not. This inspires the movie to take an even more ridiculous stance with dance, as "protest art" replaces performance art. This, of course, is all after a subplot in which a flash dance group called "The Mob" try to defeat their first opponent, the high viewing numbers of cat videos on Youtube.
With all of its causes embarrassing to any teen or even the concept of a "revolution," this Step Up would be better if it at least didn't take itself so seriously. Unfortunately, there's no relief of awareness for this movie that is loud and proud with its empty expressions of protest. Like Project X, a party thrown by old dudes for dumb kids, Step Up Revolution might as well be a protest organized, catered, and staged by The Man himself - sponsored by Nike.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10