“Step Up” movies do no harm and never fail to showcase pretty people executing superhuman dance moves, but the puppy-dog earnestness, Mentos commercial-level rebellion, silly plots and downright laughable acting still make these films feel like tests of will.
To its credit, “Step Up Revolution” tries for something more resonant than competing teams in a pop-locking battle for supremacy, but the standoff between super-fit Miami dancers and an evil land developer winds up playing like “The Idiot's Guide to Civil Disobedience — Flash Mob Edition.”
Yes, flash mobs — that past-its-prime YouTube phenomenon in which intricate mass dancing events materialize in unlikely and usually crowded public spaces — provide the main impetus for “Step Up Revolution.”
A renegade band of ragtag service workers in Miami's hotel district calling itself “The Mob” stages flash mob events that crash gallery openings, tie up traffic in South Beach and send local television reporters into paroxysms of breathless stupidity.
It's all to win a YouTube contest to attract 10 million hits, collect a cash prize and achieve endless fame as dancers in Pitbull music videos or something.
At the center of all this Miami heat is a Romeo-and-Juliet couple trying to overcome their differences to find love and stave off rampaging commerce.
Sean (Ryan Guzman) works in a posh hotel but lives paycheck-to-paycheck and flash mob-to-flash mob.
He immediately falls for Emily (Kathryn McCormick) during a meet-cute at the hotel's beach club, not knowing that she's the daughter of Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher, who deserves better), the hotel owner who wants to tear down the city's riverfront to build more marble-and-glass accommodations.
Emily wants to escape her corporate cocoon to become a great modern dancer, and soon is pulled into the Mob.
One of the victims of the proposed tear-down would be Ricky's Club Habanero, the traditional salsa club where the gang hangs out, which means that “Step Up Revolution” is essentially a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland “Babes in Arms” plot with a layer of modern corporate greed and dubstep beats. The Mob is going to save Ricky's Club Habanero by dancing into the hearts of the city council, which will clearly reconsider siding with Anderson thanks to these lovable scamps' irrepressible dance explosions.
Those who missed 2010's “Step Up 3D” will not feel lost stepping up to this fourth installment, since there are only tenuous connections between the films: Jason (Stephen “Twitch” Boss) from the previous film's “Pirates” crew has relocated from New York to Miami to join the Mob, and then Moose (Adam Sevani) from the second and third movies shows up late in the game without any explanation. Beyond Gallagher and a few of the older supporting players, most of the cast are dancers first, actors second or maybe third. The most bizarre and memorable performance comes from former “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Mia Michaels, who plays the chief choreographer in the company that Emily dreams of joining. Michaels drifts through her scenes, calling people “baby girl” and generally acting like cartoon characters do after being shot with tranquilizer darts.
With all that and more, “Revolution” fills the traditional “Step Up” slot as a late-summer time waster, technically impressive but a little embarrassing. But the lessons are there: next time a major corporation tries to invoke eminent domain and take away your favorite bar, just break out the sound system and start krumping to Skrillex.
— George Lang
‘Step Up Revolution'
Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Peter Gallagher, Stephen Boss. (Some suggestive dancing and language.)