Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman in a scene from 'Step Up Revolution.' / Sam Emerson/Summit Entertainment
‘STEP UP REVOLUTION’
Two stars (out of four)
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Two stars (out of four)
Start with a troupe of young, attractive professional dancers with squat-honed quads and little clothing. Add energetic choreography, creative art direction and eye-popping 3-D. Now subtract interesting characters, common sense and whatever impatience you have for eye-rollingly bad dialogue and acting so stiff it wouldn’t even pass for a low-budget dramatic re-enactment.
If you’re still in the black after those calculations, then you fall within the margins of the intended audience for a movie like this — another installment of a popular dance-film franchise that showcases dance moves at the expense of most all other cinematic considerations. Everyone else is better off sticking with a “So You Think You Can Dance” marathon.
The story doesn’t much matter, because you’re intended to pay it as little mind as the filmmakers do. But the plot, such as it is, focuses on the Mob, an urban-dance flash mob that wreaks choreographed havoc on high-stakes locales in the interest of self-expression.
Oh, and money. There’s a hefty prize in it for the Mob, courtesy of a YouTube competition that doesn’t make a lick of sense, if they can create a video that goes viral and nets 10 million hits before the other competitors do. Someone with a liver stronger than mine could devise a drinking game around the number of times the word “hits” is uttered. (“Get the hits!” ”This is definitely gonna get us a lot of hits!“ ”We’ve got to build on our momentum and generate more hits!”) They’re 20-something kids, and they sound like your grandma discovering the Internet.
Sensitive Sean (Ryan Guzman) is the heart of the group, and he recognizes quickly that in order to step up their game, they’ll need Emily (Kathryn McCormick), a dance virtuoso and Sean’s new squeeze.
She also happens to be the daughter of greedy corporate capitalist Mr. Anderson (a slumming Peter Gallagher) who has designs to raze the Mob’s low-income Miami neighborhood to build ritzy hotels. When Anderson’s plans are unveiled, the Mob turn their craft into protest art in an effort to save their city on their way to that sweet YouTube jackpot.
To the film’s credit, it knows where its strengths lie, and its scenes are heavily lopsided in favor of ambitiously staged and often visually arresting dance sequences. Does it require a heroic suspension of disbelief to buy that a ragtag team of kids who hold jobs as low-level grunts can manage to plot elaborate and expensive feats of choreography in a matter of days? Of course. But you’ve got to admit that the dance sequences look really, really good.
Still, the film needs a handful of connective dramatic sequences to piece together a coherent movie, and everyone muddles through the standard story cliches in a daze. She’s a rich daddy’s girl! He’s from the wrong side of the tracks! They bridge their socio-economic gap through the power of dance! Rinse, repeat.
McCormick is particularly grating in upholding her half of the romantic duo. Sure, she can dance, but act? She can’t even convincingly record the voice-mail prompt on her character’s cell phone.
But nobody’s going to see this expecting Oscar-worthy performances. Either an hour and a half of pretty people gyrating in a dance film’s third sequel is enough for you, or it isn’t. And on that front, it delivers.
Start with a troupe of young, attractive professional dancers with squat-honed quads and little clothing. Add energetic choreography, creative art direction and eye-popping 3-D.
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