'Step Up' Revolution Review: Writhing, Sweating, Terribly-Acted Dance Trash and Worth Every Cent
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Step Up Revolution Review: Writhing, Sweating, Terribly Acted Dance Trash and Worth Every Cent

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | July 30, 2012 | Comments ()

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I'll preface this review the same way I've prefaced them since Charming Potato danced his way to stardom in the original Step Up: I'm a lame white guy from Arkansas who now lives in Portland, and not even the cool Portland. The "other" Portland. I spend most of my time writing about movies and television, or watching movies and television, and if it's possible, I'm even more uncool than when the last Step Up movie came out. I drive a minivan now. Point being: My exposure to dance and other performance arts is largely limited to movie screens and these urban dance flicks like Step Up. It's all very foreign to me, and watching the dance sequences, I often feel like a four-year-old watching his first cartoon: Wide-eyed, mesmerized, and blown away.

The miracle about these Step Up films is that, though neither the storylines nor the acting has improved (in fact, they have devolved considerably since Charming Potato and his wife, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, who seem positively Shakespearean in comparison to the actors in the subsequent installments), the dance sequences have only gotten better. Step Up Revolution leaps to an entirely new stratosphere; it's more than just a mixture of urban and classical dance. Step Up Revolution employes flash mobs, ballet, special effects, fine art, performance art, street art, and even parkour. The final 15-minute dance sequence in Step Up Revolution, which employs a good 150 dancers at least, is easily the most eye-popping, complicated, and dazzling dance sequence ever put to film, a rousing visceral combination of everything we've seen before, all in three dimensions. While I typically have no love for 3D, it does add a lot during a dance sequence that includes trampoline jumping and a troupe of hoo-ra men executing a sideways routine with bungee cords.

It's such a shame, but almost beside the point, that the plot itself is inert and hopeless. Set in Miami, it centers on The Mob, a flash-mob group trying to win a YouTube contest for $100,000 by being the first to accrue 10 million views. The focal point is Sean (Ryan Guzman), co-founder of The Mob who falls in love with a classical dancer, Emily (Kathryn McCormick, a "So You Think You Can Dance" alum), who is pursuing a career in dance despite her father's (Peter "Eyebrows" Gallagher) protestations. Her father is also a developer who has designs on tearing down Sean's neighborhood to build a luxury resort, and Sean -- with Emily's assistance -- begins to use The Mob to work against the destruction of his neighborhood.

In other words, there's just enough plot development to provide an excuse for the flash mobs, which begin as disruptive performance art, morph into hypnotizing protest art, and culminate in a energetic, frenetic crowd-pleasing performance piece designed to win over the masses. That the storyline falls almost illogically into place, that the dialogue is laughable, and that the decisions made by the characters are beyond stupid doesn't even matter: It's about the dance sequences, and they are a thrilling, mind-blowing marvel.

What I don't really understand is why a talented musical director like Rob Marshall, or a daring experimental filmmaker, like Steven Soderbergh, hasn't attempted to meld these breathtaking extended dance sequences with great storytelling. Magic Mike certainly was a step in that direction, but given the popularity of "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," one would imagine that the combination of potent storytelling and slick, elaborate choreography would be lethal at the box office. Until someone figures that out, however, I can continue to tolerate the simple, poorly acted Disneyfied screenplays of the Step Up films because, in between the plot points, there's a lot of talent and well-engineered movement to be amazed by.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Jelinas

    I told a friend that I would watch this film by myself, in 3D, and then he kinda double-dog-dared me to actually do it, and I'M GONNA. I love "SYTYCD" and Kathryn was absolutely fantastic on it and I love doing flash mobs, too, and ZOMG, I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THIS!!!

  • Maybe for a future story Pajiba could compile a list of youth orientated films where the villain is a 'property developer who has designs on tearing down the neighborhood (icon) to build a luxury resort/shopping mall/tower block'.
    If I recall correctly a gaggle of feisty kids always put on some show or pull some cunning stunt which invariably results in some guy at City Hall banging his gavel and disallowing the developer a permit, to the cheers of the local community who have turned up to support these crazy kids (because now they care and realize that a community united can achieve anything).
    Clearly the Occupy Wall Street movement didn't have enough (good) singing and dancing...

  • Corey

    But seriously, how were Peter Gallagher's eyebrows in 3D?

  • Pudenda

    I'm so happy that this movie got a decent review. My little brother is one of the "mob" dancers so I'm bound by duty to sit through it. Glad it will be entertaining.

  • Pookie

    Rowles, are you telling us you're willing to throw away your last bit of credibility by defending this brutally shrill mess?

  • Dancing and watching talented dancers is pure fun, plain and simple. There are worst movies to waste your dollar on imo...unless you hate dancing that is.

  • mrcreosote

    Step Up:Amageddon
    Step Up:Independence Day
    Step Up: Fast and Furious
    Step Up: Bikini Car Wash
    Step Up: The Dark Knight
    Step Up: Howard's End
    Step Up:Howard the Duck
    Step Up: The Next Generation
    Step Up:Game of Thrones
    Step Up:C-SPAN
    Step Up:Hoarders
    Man, it just keeps on givin'.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Step up: GoT would have been the best thing ever. Stannis vs. Renly oh god do I want to see that.

  • blorft

    It would go something like this:


    Because Renly is figuratively clapping in Stannis' face all the time. And I kind of really wish this could happen now.

  • NateMan

    I'd be there opening night for
    Step Up: Bikini Car Wash. Although I can see the on-site injuries piling up from everyone slipping on the soap...

  • e jerry powell

    Dustin, please quit encouraging Adam Shankman. He'll do another horrible Rock of Ages-esque thing and the townspeople will have to chase you down with torches and pitchforks.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Writhing, sweating, terribly acted and worth every cent.

    Or what Charlie Sheen calls sex with a coked up hooker.


  • BarbadoSlim

    This thing eating comments now?

  • pajiba

    Just yours, sweetie.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    potent storytelling and slick, elaborate choreography would be lethal at the box office

    You mean like Moulin Rouge? Or Strictly Ballroom?

    Is America's Best Dance Crew back on? Man, I loved that show....and I'll second all the SYTYCD love, though I usually watch it on mute with one eye, turning the volume on only when there's actual dancing.

  • Adrien

    ABDC concluded last month. Perennial dance show finalist and John Leguizamo twin, Dtrix Sandoval is now the judge.

  • Ilana Newman

    Hey, I'll have you know that Portland, Oregon is the other Portland. Maine is where it's at.

  • So the 3-D ticket is worth it? I love these movies. I'm totally willing to overlook the horrible acting and dumb plots just to get to the amazing dance sequences, too. And it's great to see SYTYCD alumni getting their chance to shake it on the big screen!

  • The last one was awesome in 3D, no lie. Look out for the 3d dance scene incorporating slushies - I swear it's worth it.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I admit I have the same reaction to these dance movies as you. Step Up, You Got Served, etc., it's all gravy. But I couldn't find a friend to go see TDKR with me (would have had to wait a weak at least and that didn't work for me) so I went by myself. This I would also have to go see by myself. This I CANNOT go see by myself. I just can't be that guy. And I can't say it's for my job (nice excuse btw). So Netflix it is. There is no shame on my couch.

    Also, Taylor says you haven't been returning his texts. What gives?

  • BierceAmbrose

    There is no shame on my couch.

    I'll have to try that line sometime. Not on me. I'm easy.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Taylor probably has a lot on his mind too, what with the break up of the Twilighting duo. That guy is all feelings. Also, lowercase_ryan, too bad we don't live in the same city, as I love a buddy to relish these with and my vagina would mean you a shame-free viewing card.

  • lowercase_ryan

    You're right, it would. Once again, vagina is the answer.

  • mrcreosote

    Don't worry, I think if you watch this, they give a vagina at the door.
    I KID!!!

  • lowercase_ryan

    if that were true I know some gamers that would help vault this thing to all kinds of box office records.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    See, vagina IS always the answer.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I can't lie, I'm a big fan.

  • GwenBear

    You should really consider adding SYTYCD to your busy TV watching schedule. It's amazing dancers and dances, without the trite storytelling. In fact, SYTYCD has always had less filler/stupid drama than most reality shows of its type, and it has even LESS this season since they're down to one night a week. It's really all about the dancing and choreography, and it's GREAT.

  • BierceAmbrose

    What they said.

    And yet, I feel uncomfortably less shallow realizing that I actually like the art & performance of it, not just the hotties. Is this what evolving is like? Not a fan.

    OK, just image searched Cat Deeley. I'm better now.

  • bel

    I love it. SYTYCD is the only watchable reality, there's so much talent and hard work behind it. In the last few years it may have gotten worse but it's still the only way someone with limited income/time can enjoy such beatiful dancers. In my home country they tried to make some kind of copy and it was awful, but USA is a mine of extremely brilliant dancers who barely scrape a living, which is why we should be happy this terrible movies are having success, they can't act for sure but thats because they've been too busy dancing

  • NateMan

    I hate to admit it, but you're absolutely right. I hate reality television, but this is the ONE program which my wife can convince me to sit down and watch. There's surprisingly little drama, and some absolutely amazing talent - one created almost entirely from hard work and dedication. That I can appreciate.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    I love these movies. I watch them all and I'm not ashamed. That said, I advise waiting for them to become available online because cinemas don't allow fast-forwarding through the talky bits. The characters/actors wouldn't pass the turing test, but hot damn, can they dance!

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