Film Review: "STEP UP REVOLUTION"
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, July 27, 2012 14:07
Genre movies are a beautiful thing. You’re promised a formula – the cop movie, the rom-com, the slasher film, they all have them – and then we go to see just how well the conceit is pulled off (or, if we’re lucky, how well the filmmaker has subverted or personalized it.) Director Scott Speer doesn’t do much on the margins of his dance 4-quel, “STEP UP REVOLUTION”, but he certainly delivers what the genre promises.
So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. The plot combines two of the most tired angles in dance movies – the angry high-class father (Peter Gallagher, with strangely thin eyebrows) who doesn’t want his daughter to dance, and the ghetto populace forced to fight (er, dance) to stay in their home. As bad as the dialogue is (it feels like a 15-year-old wrote it after eavesdropping on drunk kids at Spring Break,) the delivery is worse, mainly thanks to the hilariously stilted line readings of professional dancer Kathryn McCormick. It’s predictable, badly acted, and certain moments of melodrama here are nothing less than embarrassing to watch.
But that’s not why you pay to see “STEP UP” movies. You pay to see “STEP UP” movies for extravagantly choreographed dance sequences, and here you get them in spades (and now with dubstep, as is in fashion this year.) The flash mob is the latest trend co-opted for the series, and director of photography Crash (seriously) films the action with a heightened reality that feels like some kind of warped alternate universe digital cartoon. Everything has a candy gloss over it, shiny to the point where it feels like real actors inside CGI 3-D constructions. It’s mind-numbingly stupid, but it’s also energetic, youthful, and most of all visually exhilarating.
But speaking of stupid, I can’t help but mention the subtext – and I warn you, vague spoilers abound. The film follows an underground dance troupe known as The Mob (featuring, as “lead”, McCarthy) while they attempt to create a reputation, save their lower class town from gentrification, and fight the good fight against corporate greed. Yet the film sees them all embracing and celebrating around the idea of corporate sponsorship. It’s never hard to remember that most of our movies come from the 1%.
But “STEP UP” isn’t promising you political subtext (maybe the trailers are, but if you believe them then you deserve the disappointment.) It’s promising loud, over-the-top, music-video-style dance scenes. The fact that they forever teeter between being feeling genuinely hip and feeling like a middle aged man’s phony attempt at being cool is forgivable, considering the franchised source. With this series, you get what you pay for, and nothing more.
One last thing: it should probably be noted that the film’s greatest flaw is its glaring lack of Channing Tatum (he starred in the original installment.) A setback that large simply can’t be overcome.