Review: 'Step Up Revolution', starring Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman
Somehow the Step Up series continues to shuffle along, even though it's been shamelessly biting off the Breakin' formula for six years with little to no alteration. Essentially telling the same story through four flicks, a team of ambitious and shockingly naive dancers break dance and just flat out break stuff in hopes of changing the world around them. Actually, even that's a little too large a canvas for these simple-minded movies. What we have for the umpteenth time in Step Up Revolution is a bunch of dancers bustin' a move in order to save their little clubhouse from 'The Man' and his wads of cash and tailored suits.
Without the benefit of Jon Chu's graceful direction, or Channing Tatum's reckless energy, Step Up Revolution is terrible even by this series' meager standards. Music video director, Scott Speer, steps behind the camera and he has a clear gift for capturing the electric, exquisitely orchestrated dance numbers, which have only grown in spectacle. As jaw dropping as those performances may be, that's how devastatingly horrible the acting is, and there comes a point where you just wish everyone would shut up and dance. Ryan Guzman is the latest in a growing line of bland, mediocre hunksters who have stepped in to fill the Tatum void. He plays Sean, the painfully blue collar leader of the Miami-based dance crew known as The MOB, who disrupt traffic and crash local events with their unique brand of flash mobbing. The opening scene alone, in which the crew stomps atop hydraulics-laden cars in the middle of a busy street, is nearly good enough to make you forget the crappy attempt at a plot that follows on its heels.
This being Step Up, of course there's a classically trained ballet dancer anxious to fall in love with a guy from the opposite side of the tracks. Kathryn McCormick, a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance, plays the eager Emily, who has her own mini-Black Swan thing going on as she struggles to find the edge to win a prized position at a prominent dance school. Good thing she meets Sean, who has enough raw energy and passion for two, and introduces her into The MOB much to the chagrin of his homies. When a wealthy industrial(Peter Gallagher) decides to tear down their favorite Miami neighborhood, The MOB figures it's time to stop dancing for YouTube hits and start getting political. There's just one little problem: it's Emily's dad who has their neighborhood under the bullseye. How can the love between Emily and Sean possibly survive?
Perhaps proving there's really no good place for the Step Up movies to go to avoid criticism, the film actually gets worse as it tries to become relevant through The MOB's political activism. An inventive routine in an art gallery, in which the crew emulates pieces of fine art, only seems to exist to make fun of snobby art critics. And frankly I'm surprised one particularly dark and frightful number, in which The MOB dons gas masks and hurls smoke grenades at a bunch of stuffy rich folks, bears a striking resemblance to the recent tragedy in Aurora, CO. I'm glad the scene hasn't been yanked, although word is it's being considered even at this later date. On its own, the scene doesn't really work anyway, and is easily the least creative number.
As an actress, McCormick makes for a damn sexy dancer, and she'll probably be passable when the film hits TV and we can watch her on 'mute'. Guzman's charisma only extends to those times when he's gyrating and bouncing off the side of buildings. For Step Up devotees, the return of a couple familiar faces(Tatum's not one of them!) will bring a smile and added jolt of electricity(literally) to the chaotic final performance, in which The MOB throws everything they've got against the wall. Combining martial arts, parkour, break dancing, and dozens of other styles into all of the high energy routines, Step Up Revolution is best when it stops trying to be something it's not.