Step up 4: Miami Heat
The latest movie in the Step Up franchise aims for a politicized message behind all the flashy moves, but it could do with a lot less plot and a lot more dancing. In Step Up Revolution, the Miami dance group ''The Mob'' takes to the streets (and other random locations) to perform intricately choreographed routines with their own DJ, a camera guy who uploads their videos to YouTube, and a graffiti artist who leaves their signature behind. It takes at least that much effort just to get hipster New Yorkers to ride the subways without any pants on once a year; it's hard to believe that The Mob could pull off their elaborate schemes without getting caught, but that's the magic of movies.
The Mob represents the more diverse working class side of Miami, a young, multiracial group of friends who create incredible works of art that disappear before they get shut down. One of the Mob's leaders Sean (Ryan Guzman) earnestly explains to newcomer Emily (Kathryn McCormick) that the group's reason is to give a voice to the voiceless, or to be happy, or to dance or something. It's not really clear, but they have a lot of fun and look amazing doing it.
Once Sean and his friends find out that a greedy developer plans to raze their neighborhood to make way for another South Beach-style hotel monstrosity, they have a reason to rally, but until then, they're just trying to win a cash prize by getting clicks on YouTube. The typical Step Up twist is that Emily is the developer's daughter. Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher) doesn't approve of Emily's love of dancing or other frippery, and he certainly wouldn't approve of her hanging out with the people causing such mayhem in the streets of Miami.
Step Up Revolution biggest misstep is trying to give the movie more of a hook than the franchise's typical Romeo and Juliet-style love story and tap into ''the Zeitgeist'' (I swear, that's from the studio-provided press notes) of flash mobs. The film could have cut out most of the plot and characters and still have a completely intact film, insofar as the point of the film is its multimedia dance routines. The sort of productions The Mob pulls off are more akin to carefully planned art installations or music videos in terms of scope; it would have been better to at least make that somehow feasible in terms of the storyline. Yes, we are here for a spectacle, and we surely get a spectacle, but it needs to have some roots in reality.
The dance scenes are fun, sexy and occasionally a little sappy, but overall quite enjoyable for people who enjoy ''So You Think You Can Dance'' type of shows. Kathryn McCormick and Stephen ''tWitch'' Boss both appeared on ''SYTYCD'' and their costar Misha Gabriel is a classically trained ballet dancer turned pro back-up dancer for folks like Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Guzman doesn't have a dance background, but he is an MMA fighter who obviously took his training very seriously. The entire outfit is pretty damn entertaining, to be honest.
As far as the 3D goes, it makes most of Miami look overcast and grey. The extra zings added in to make sure we get our money's worth, like sand flicking out at us or a breakdancer whose foot seems to be aiming for our face, only serves to distract from the real show at hand. There is also an awful lot of ramping and generally spazzy editing tricks that look cheap. The screenplay by Amanda Brody is definitely not its strong suit.
Step Up Revolution is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy beach novel. It's embarrassing to be caught actually enjoying it, and you'll forget about it almost immediately, but it's a decent way to spend a summer afternoon.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.