“Step Up Revolution” is one of the most fun movies that will come out of the summer of 2012. In some ways I think it's a more successful movie in terms of execution than “The Dark Knight Rises.”
I suppose I understand why. The acting is flat, the writing formulaic to the point of hilarity (The series has many similar story beats, but the overall plot of “Revolution” is almost identical to “Step Up 3”) and the leads from this and the previous films might as well be clones despite being three separate sets of actors.
And yet I find myself not caring. Normally such shortcomings would cause me to rant about the laziness of modern filmmaking and how such shallow fare is barely worth even mention. So what keeps me from playing the role of snooty critic and spending the next several hundred words in a rant before distributing some smarmy variation on a letter grade? These movies are just too much fun to justify such a review.
Look, it's obvious from the very outset that these films are made to accomplish one thing and only one thing: provide a series of dance numbers that become increasingly complex and over-the-top with each new instance featuring impossibly attractive people executing said numbers. And on that front it succeeds to an exceptional degree.
Sean (Ryan Guzman) is the ringleader of The Mob, a rogue group of flash mob dancers who are determined to notch 10 million views on YouTube of their public antics. If they can get more views than the current hit leader (a video of a cute kitten) The Mob will score a cool $100,000. Things get complicated, though, when Emily (Kathryn McCormick) hits it off with Sean.
Emily is a talented ballet dancer desperate to make it professionally. She's also the daughter of a billionaire property developer who's weeks away from leveling an old Miami neighborhood so he can build a gigantic new resort strip. Who happens to live there? Why, Sean and his single mom sister, most of the Mob's members and countless other long-time inhabitants.
The solution? Emily spurs The Mob to move its talents from performance art to “protest art.” Because pulling off ridiculously complex dance routines while also causing public disturbances is precisely the most effective method of raising public awareness about an issue. Who knew?
The whole notion of a flash mob affecting social change is patently absurd, but the film commits to the idea in such a sincere fashion that you almost believe that by pulling off some sweet dance moves in the middle of a building lobby that you can rally a community behind you to stop a powerful billionaire's building plans.
That doesn't excuse the almost laughably formulaic plotting (never mind the series' familiar beats, if you can't predict the entire film's outcome within the first 10 minutes you've probably never watched a movie before), but the film moves at such a breezy clip that it barely feels like an issue by the time the credits roll.
And in a strange way, I almost find the recycled plotting and character beats to be part of the series' absurd charm. It's not a matter of “if” the pretty brunette will fall for the charming and chiseled guy who pushes her as a dancer, it's “how quickly into the first act will it happen?” It's not a matter of “if” the secret(s) that one character holds will briefly tear apart a relationship, it's “how quickly will that rift be repaired so the movie can transition into preparing for the big finale.” There's a sort of “Scooby Doo” charm to watching a series that is so dedicated to following a cheeky formula like this.
Whether or not you can tolerate such a formula is certainly a matter of personal preference, but what should be indisputable is that when delivering the advertised dancing, “Step Up Revolution” delivers in spades. There isn't a sequence that manages to match the energy and choreography of the final two parts of the “Step Up 3” finale, but the sheer scale of the finale in “Revolution” dwarfs pretty much everything that's come before it.
Yes, I just said that this third “Step Up” sequel isn't quite as good as its predecessor. No, I can't really believe I went there, myself.
Look, the simple fact of the matter is that these movies are a blast to watch and never once take themselves too seriously. My only real hope is that the inevitable “Step Up 5” manages to do a better job of consolidating some of the wayward characters from past entries. “Magic Mike” proved Channing Tatum still has plenty of moves left and the exceptional talents of Adam Sevani as Moose were missed, even if he got a brief couple minutes in the finale here.
Basically what I'm saying is that I want “Step Up 5” to be the “Fast Five” of this particular franchise, bringing together all the best parts of previous films for one massive, over-the-top bit of dancefloor insanity.