Step Up Revolution
One and a half stars (out of four)
The revolution will be dancified.
The earnest hoofers who take over Miami to flash mob their way to Internet glory in Step Up Revolution decide to move their feet for the greater good in this silly bit of summer frippery, the fourth instalment in the dance-romance franchise that made Channing Tatum a star.
The fancy-stepping leads (MMA fighter and model Ryan Guzman and So You Think You Can Dance cast member Kathryn McCormick) have zero acting experience — and it shows. Same goes for the first-time movie director, Scott Speer, who can’t coax even a passable performance from his amateurish cast, save for TV veterans who already have the goods: Peter Gallagher as a property developer and Aussie charmer Cleopatra Coleman in an all-but wordless role as deejay Penelope.
There’s no help from the script, which appears to have been written on a napkin by high-schoolers on their lunch break. Luckily they had just finished studying Romeo and Juliet. Awesome!
The showboating moves that are the real reason for the Step Up flicks are more acrobatics and precision drills than dance (even low-rider hydraulic cars get in on the action), although the kids sure do know how to shake a tail feather in the most suggestive ways when called upon. I haven’t seen so many heads of hair being raked since lice-check day at school.
The story revolves around a rich hotel developer’s daughter and aspiring dancer, Emily (McCormick). She falls for hot waiter Sean (Ryan Guzman), whose poor parents loved to dance at a rundown salsa bar in Miami’s Little Havana. Everybody in the movie is a great dancer, except for Emily’s dad (The O.C.’s Gallagher), who wants to develop the waterfront strip and toss the patrons out on the street, razing Sean’s home and his sister’s employer in the process.
Sean and his pals anonymously take over streets and public spaces with impressive spontaneous-seeming dance performances. Called The Mob, their goal is hitting one million YouTube views so they can win some cash and do something else that I can’t remember. It doesn’t really matter. Emily, now aware of the plight of the 99 per cent thanks to Sean, joins The Mob, which has decided to use its dance prowess for good rather than commerce by alerting Miami to the injustice of the evil developer. Art can’t be for fun anymore, Emily earnestly tells them, bowing to Sean’s insistence that she not tell the crew who her father is. She agrees. Daddy would never understand her loving a boy from the poor side of town and besides, they have to dance for political reasons. And also because she looks totally hot in this outfit.
It’s all good, clean stupid fun and the steamy Miami setting lends itself to plenty of shots of very fit bikini-clad gals and shirtless dudes grinding it out under the tropical sun. Some of the dance numbers, especially one featuring a briefcase-toting lock-’n’-pop legion and a living art gallery display, are impressive but don’t bother with the 3-D glasses, which aren’t.
What’s next for these politically aware dancers? Step Up Limit Roaming Fees has a nice ring to it. Power to the people — dance on!
Linda Barnard is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.