Nonstop Movies: ‘Step Up Revolution’

What happened to the dance film genre? When did it get dumbed down so much? I grew up watching and loving dance movies such as “Breakin’,” “Beat Street” and “Flashdance,” and while they didn’t have the most elaborate storylines, at least they conjured up decent and realistic stories around the dance numbers. “Step Up Revolution” however, doesn’t even bother with realism at all. It’s all about how many dance numbers they can put together in 90 minutes.

A group of young dancers in Miami calling themselves, The Mob, aim to change their lives by winning $100,000 in a YouTube contest that rewards the first video to get 10 million hits. Divided among some 50 dancers, that’s a cool $2,000 each. After taxes, it’s just enough to buy a new tracksuit and pair of fly sneakers. Never mind that the money the dancers spend on costumes, props, special effects and electronics for each of their flash mobs probably already exceeds the prize total. I’ve never seen such impressively dressed and technologically savvy dancers as The Mob.

There’s also the evil rich developer, Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher), who plans to wipe out the underprivileged section of town where all the dancers live and play to build a gigantic luxury hotel and retail complex. The dancers, of course, oppose this development, not thinking ahead to the thousands of construction jobs the development would create and the thousands more when the new development opens to the public, not to mention what the tourism money would do for the local economy. Oh no, they don’t care about such things. They just don’t want to be inconvenienced to move and don’t want to lose their local hangout.

Of course the rich developer has a rebellious daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick), who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, but falls in love with Sean (Ryan Guzman), who just happens to be the leader of The Mob. After joining The Mob and leading them in a protest flash mob against her father’s development, she sadly tells her father that she didn’t mean to hurt him. Um, yeah, you did. The flash-mob-as-protest-art-against-your-father’s-hotel was entirely your idea. The whole point of the mob was to hurt him.

The first protest flash mob didn’t work, but The Mob is a resilient bunch. They can come up with new routines and concepts, locations, costumes, choreography, music and props in mere days. After a second failed protest mob that leads to the arrest of a few of the dancers, their voices are finally heard in the finale when they return bigger and bolder at a press conference with the mayor and evil developer. As they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Strangely, as the dancers dressed in thug gear and carrying what look like weapons approach the press conference full of rich old people, the rich old people gather around them instead of running away. The message is the same this third time, but because the dance routine is bigger and better, it finally dawns on the evil developer that these kids really do care about their crummy town, and he agrees to figure something out. What that something is, however, is never mentioned.

So okay, the writing is ridiculously terrible. Nothing makes sense in the story and the dialogue is lazy and laughable. The line “us against the world” is actually used not once, but twice, in two scenes. It’s obvious that the point of these “Step Up” movies is to crank one out every few years and to milk that cash cow. That would all be totally acceptable if the dancing was actually good.

“Step Up Revolution” doesn’t offer anything innovative in choreography or style, except for implementing the new trend of flash mobs into the story. I’ve seen these same moves nearly 30 years ago in “Breakin’” and other films. The only two routines that really have any dynamic energy are the opening and closing numbers. All the performances in between offer nothing new.

Maybe I’ve just outgrown this type of film. Instead of sitting back and letting the pretty dancers entertain me, I was constantly thinking, “Well, that’s just not practical.” The high school kids sitting behind me in the theater certainly seemed to be amazed by all the dancing and entertained by the what can marginally be called humor. Maybe I shouldn’t watch another film in this series until they make one called “Step Up if Your Knees Can Handle it.”

“Step Up Revolution,” 99 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.