Step Up: Revolution features some amazing choreography, cinematography and a dynamic soundtrack. It unfortunately also offers a cliché-laden plot and horrendous dialogue laughably delivered by dancers masquerading as actors. Were the filmmakers to jettison the connective tissue and merely make this a Cirque du Soleil spectacle SU:R would be a fun diversion. Instead by injecting melodrama and a superficial social conscience we’re left with a movie that is at best tedious as the audience marks time between the dance numbers.
The makers of the popular Step Up dance film franchise have decided that the fourth in the series needs to “mean something.” Revolution is a mash-up of pop-culture moments (flash mobs and occupy) crossed with a clichéd plot ripped straight from Dirty Dancing—privileged girl (Kathryn McCormick) moves to Miami with hopes of becoming a dancer where she falls for a waiter (Ryan Guzman) who also happens to run a flash mob crew hoping to get enough “hits” on YouTube to win a contest. Emily and Sean’s love is stymied when her father announces plans to buy Miami oceanfront property, evict the tenants and build an evil hotel.
There are a few twists in the story—though none are original—but the dialogue does it no favors. Better actors could probably make the material seem fresh but the monotonous regurgitation here is oft painful. There will be no Oscar talk for the actors. It is no surprise to find that the script was handled by Melissa Rosenberg, the person responsible for the equally awful Twilight movie adaptations.
The effects, cinematography and choreography however may get a nod because they are wonderfully conceived and produced. Set to outstanding music the over-the-top moves had me laughing with glee despite myself. Director Scott Speer steps in for John Chu (who helmed the second and third movies in the loosely-related franchise) and brings a brilliant visual style. Were the movie not completely tone deaf in plot and character I would love to see him be given the keys to an action or superhero movie.
Here’s the weird part of this review: Despite the plot being a painfully simplistic anti-corporate screed and idiotic romance, I can still recommend Step Up: Revolution as a theatrical product. The 3D effects are brilliantly utilized and the dancers pop off the screen. Couple that with a fantastic soundtrack (though a little heavy on the dubstep for my tastes) and you have a fun theatrical experience. Clocking in at just 97 minutes long Step Up: Revolution doesn’t overstay its welcome. Throwing in a few nice nods to the previous films in the series and culminating with a “dance will cure all the world’s ills” finale, there’s enough fun in this flick to make it worth seeing in 3D.
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