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Step Up Revolution

Summit Entertainment; 98 minutes

Director: Scott Speer

Written by on July 28, 2012 

Dance movies, not unlike pornography, deliver exactly what they promise, sometimes dressed up with a “plot.” Step Up Revolution delivers both a plot (a lame love story) along with the promise of some social commentary. The social commentary is what interests me the most: street dance, since the first Step Up, is largely seen as an outside form, relegated to the streets (remember Step Up 2: The Streets, anybody?). Following the example of another Miami-based sequel (although it was a bit more of a spin off), 2 Fast, 2 Furious – this also heads south for Latin flavor.

When the film works, it works, often creating an atomsphere that another 3D dance movie should be jealous of: Wim Wenders’ underwhelming Pina. In fact, it should have followed Pina’s example, versus cramming in a plot as old as Romeo & Juliet, this time with gentrification as a running theme. John Sayles’ Sunshine State this is not. At least Sayles had the good sense to make his film about coastal gentrification in Florida during the real estate boom. This is half a decade late to the game.

Of course, his daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick), who would rather dance than destroy charming neighborhoods with high-end restaurants and designer shopping, finds her way to The Mob, a dance troop who, in the film’s opening scenes, shuts down South Street. The Mob is lead by a Sean (Ryan Guzman) who becomes, shocker, her love interest after a chance encounter on the dance floor.

The dance number range from just plain fun to strikingly beautiful. Consider a later number that has the group infiltrate an art gallery, crossing Step Up with Banksy. It’s this moment where film (and it’s use of 3D) borders on brilliance. If only Pina had the energy, style and whit of this single sequence here. Unfortunately, the promise of this sequence is not held up, as the film reverts to auto-pilot stepping down to its mundane love story; at least both parties are likable.

The film has a great deal to say. Often these films are about getting even, achieving some justice and having a party to save the barn. Here it’s a charming neighborhood that I wish we got to see more of. This isn’t an ethnographic portrait but why can’t it be? This is what I enjoyed most about Sayles’ Sunshine State  – this film can have it both ways, and it would further contexualize the argument the film finally settles on (which on its own is a potentially disturbing middle ground in which everyone wins or back peddles in the name of PR). Film’s with a political statement to make that take the middle ground often fail, may I evoke the tragically boring The Iron Lady.

Still, the saving grace is the aforementioned set-piece in a contemporary art gallery. This, the dance and the use of 3D almost make the film worth seeing, for it is not without visual and auditory delights, and is perhaps the best Step Up film in the series. And goodness how it barely connects to the others. Each are joined by exactly one character, including this one. And, it’s not Channing Tatum, he’s too busy dancing to pay the bills in Magic Mike.

Step Up Revolution is now playing in wide release.


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