Step Up Revolution is anything but revolting. Or revolutionary. But it’s an ecstatic throwback to cinematic sincerity directed with aplomb by Scott Speer, who crafts in the fourth Step Up movie yet another spectacular dance spectacle fused with romantic notions of underdog supremacy. It’s old-fashioned filmmaking sprinkled with outlandishly choreographed dance numbers as impressive as any special effect you’ll find in the summer blockbuster of your choice. If you’re actually interested enough to read this review, you can probably skip the rest of it: 99.99% of Step Up Revolution is the most entertaining movie of the year so far.
But oh, that 0.01%… We’ll get back to that. First, the fun stuff.
The Step Up movies have, it must be said, gotten progressively better with each passing sequel. The original film, a Dirty Dancing/Strictly Ballroom hybrid, boasted more romancin' than kickin’ dance moves, but it was at least good enough to get Step Up 2 The Streets into production. The second film brought with it increasingly elaborate choreography, the perpetually-vibrating booty of Briana Evigan and, most importantly, Moose, played by Adam G. Sevani. The unassumingly lanky frame of Sevani earned itself a starring role in Step Up 3D, re-imagined in the quasi-superhero universe of New York City. The third film – which found Moose struggling to maintain a secret identity, dance-fighting a samurai and teaming up with a robot – was an almost ingeniously broad delivery system for the some of the best dance moves ever filmed.
So Step Up Revolution had its work cut out for it. Zatoichi they’re not, but the Step Up franchise has nevertheless maintained a remarkable standard of quality for any ongoing franchise. What these films lack in depth they compensate for in refreshing directness, and Step Up Revolution eagerly follows in those footsteps. Peter Gallagher plays a heartless real estate mogul who wants to depose the families of a Miami flash mob who plan their public disturbances with an intricacy that would make Danny Ocean piss himself. Little does Gallagher know that his own daughter, “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Kathryn McCormick, has fallen in league with the miscreants whose idea of a good time involves hijacking a gallery to put on a show that puts the swirls of paint to shame.
When the fit pops (and proceeds to lock) the shan, “The Mob” turns its attentions from performance art to protest art – which they proudly announce like they f*cking invented the idea – to raise awareness for their families’ plight. Secrets are revealed, starcross’d lovers retreat to their own lonely galaxies and only the intervention of Moose and his robot cohort can save the day in a climax that proves no point whatsoever but is impressive enough to somehow save the damned day. SPOILER warning? Screw that: this is Step Up Revolution. If it’s a twist ending you’re after, you’re in the wrong damned theater.
But then again, a twist there is (here’s that 0.01%), in the form of an ironic last-minute deus ex machina – ACTUAL SPOILER – that finds “The Mob” celebrating an endorsement from Nike, just seconds after pulling out all the stops to prevent corporate greed from adversely affecting their hometown. I guess they’re a lot less concerned about sweatshop accusations overseas (unless that’s the direction they’re going to take with Step Up 5). It’s an oddly disquieting note to end the film on, even if the equation to sports star celebrity – which Scott Speer claims the moment was meant to symbolize – does kind of explain their blind celebration.
As strange as the very, very ending of Step Up Revolution was in the moment (and the days that followed), a week has gone by now since I’ve seen the film and that weirdness somehow seems less important than the beautifully outlandish melodrama that preceded it. If nothing else, the wacko last minute plot development certainly contributes to the film’s overwhelming sense of naïveté. The choreography is as eye-popping as ever, the performances are strong enough to sell the bluntness of the plot and the silliness on display only contributes to the film’s infectious neo-sincerity. If you can shut off your cynicism for 99 minutes you’ll have the time of your life.