Step Up: Revolution,
directed by Scott Speer
(Summit, 2012)

Let me state up front that I have not been the target demo for this movie for several decades. Let me further state that I generally prefer movies with a strong, logical plot and character development. With these factors in mind, we could probably conclude that I would hate Step Up: Revolution.

That conclusion would be wrong. The fact is, despite everything that is wrong with it, I loved this movie.

Sure, the plot is pure fairy-tale cheese. The Princess, Kathryn McCormick as Emily, comes to Miami to become a professional dancer and meets the commoner, Ryan Guzman as Sean, and by dancing finds love, commitment to a cause and fame as a dancer. The film also offers a touch of the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent conflict: Emily, a member of the 1 percent, is the daughter of Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher), who intends to improve Sean's ghetto neighborhood by destroying it in order to build a luxury hotel and resort in its place.

Sean and his friends, card-carrying members of the 99 percent, are a dance crew known as the Mob who throw flash mobs all over Miami and post the results on Youtube, hoping to win $100,000 in some sort of competition -- the details aren't fully clear. Emily, of course, joins the Mob -- without telling them who her father is, a move that leads to tension in Act 3. But everything is resolved pleasantly -- this is a world where nothing unpleasant ever happens, a thoroughly sanitized Miami and the most benign ghetto you've ever seen; everything is bright, filled with saturated, bold colors and beautiful people.

Sound like a fat, puffy cheeseball?

The fact is, it doesn't matter. The movie is a celebration of dance and the power of art to unify people, to bring order out of chaos.

And it is spectacular. Its heart is in the right place and its emotions are upfront. So will yours be.

There are four major dance sequences in the movie, each set in an imaginatively chosen location and each using the city and the dancers to the best advantage. Each set piece is bigger, bolder and better than the preceding, so that by the time they get to the final one, you think they can't possibly top what came before -- but again, you will be proven wrong. This is dance that is athletic, precise, bold, daring and carefree, done by a group of the most talented kids you've ever seen.

In between the major dances, there is ballet, contemporary dance, even a samba. All of it is beautiful, athletic, and so skillfully done that nothing else matters -- the dancing alone can carry the movie.

What's amazing, though,is that it doesn't have to. The script is formula, the acting perfunctory, but the truth is, the movie is so cheerful, so bright and alive and so goodnatured that it manages to overcome its negatives. It works, even though it shouldn't.

Go for the dancing alone. You'll come out amazed, dazzled by what the filmmakers and their crew of dancers managed to pull off. You'll also come out amazed at how well a movie that shouldn't work does.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

8 December 2012

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