Step Up Revolution Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
September 13, 2014
Most film franchises don't make it past their third instalment. The fourth film in a given series - a "four-quel", to quote Mark Kermode - is often the point where all remaining principles and good intentions go out of the window. The franchise has innovated itself as far as it possibly can, the quality has already started to decline (good three-quels are very rare) and everyone has decided to just give up and enjoy what's left of the box office.

Considering the declining fortunes of the Step Up series, you could be forgiven for not holding out much hope for Miami Heat (also known as Step Up Revolution). It comes from a first-time director, features little or no continuity with the previous offering, and is in some respects just as thin and episodic as we've come to expect. But whether through sheer good will or a somewhat tighter second half, it does eventually improve upon its predecessor and ends up as something perfectly passable.

It would be quite a stretch to describe any of the Step Up series as auteurist works. The later instalments in particular are so homogenously mainstream and narratively generic that it's hard to see any positive directorial stamp. But it is worth noting that the series has been at its best when Jon M. Chu has not been behind the camera, vacating on this occasion for Scott Speer.

Like many modern film directors, Speer comes out of music videos, having cut his teeth shooting promos for Ashley Tisdale, Jordin Sparks and Jason Derulo among others. This will produce a groan among many who despise anyone who comes out of either Disney or reality TV shows like American Idol - and I would often count myself in the latter camp at least. But however mainstream and often sanitised his work may be, Speer knows how to shoot good dancing and how to keep his performers focussed on the task at hand.

The first half of Step Up 4: Miami Heat (Miami Heat hereafter) is as boringly predictable as ever. It begins with a pretty decent set-piece and the setting-up of our main characters, who like seemingly every dancer in the history of cinema are waiting for their first big break. From there the plot incorporates incredibly familiar elements such as forbidden love, corporations not having a heart and the underdogs coming together to take a stand. If you've seen any of the first three films, you could watch this with your eyes closed and know exactly where it's going.

Each of the Step Up films have been populated by characters who are painted in very broad strokes. In Step Up itself this was acceptable, because director Anne Fletcher used their melodramatic nature as a springboard into something that was appealing and interesting. But since that point the series has become less and less about character and plot, to the point where if you took out all the talking, it would just be a series of music videos.

Miami Heat doesn't continue this decline, as if things could get any more inane after Step Up 3. But it is still an immensely episodic venture whose moments of dialogue are often just book-ends to the set-pieces. The characters are so clearly defined in their narrative roles that some of them don't need to open their mouth before we know exactly what they will do by the end. If you were immensely generous, you could point to the tradition of silent cinema and deriving character from gesture, but such traditions seem far from the creators' minds.

In terms of the performers, we are again confronted by a number of fine dancers whose acting talents are far outstripped by their ability to bust a move. Like Rick Malambri in the third film, Ryan Guzman is essentially a pretty boy: he doesn't have a great deal of presence, and smiles like he's modelling Levi's jeans. Kathryn McCormick as a dancer is every bit as good as Jenna Dewan in the first film, but she's a little one-dimensional in delivering her lines.

Misha Gabriel gets very little to work with as Eddie, having to play the 'attitude' or suspicious role in almost every scene with little variety. And Peter Gallagher mainly lets his greasy hair and suit do the acting for him; there's no evidence of the charisma that he had in, say, sex, lies and videotape. What's arguably worse, however, are the blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances by returning cast members who can act. Adam Sevani returns as Moose for all of two minutes, lifting the final set-piece and then swiftly disappearing.

So far, Miami Heat is on a par with Step Up 2, being far too loose and lazy with its characters but not as offensively aimless as Step Up 3. And then, around halfway through, the film shifts very slightly and starts to actually carry a little more weight around. The series returns to its roots, trying to use dancing to communicate an idea or contrast with another section of society, rather than just try to impress us with heavily-edited physical exertion.

Once the mob turns its focus to Emily's father and his plans for the development, the film stops being just another story about young people being cool and misunderstood, and becomes a story about how gentrification threatens culture. This is a theme that has been explored in musical cinema and theatre before, most notably in Rent.

The difference is that Rent is annoying and massively pretentious, claiming to say a lot more than it actually is (and exploiting the AIDS pandemic along the way). Miami Heat is completely no-nonsense: it's proud of what it is, but it doesn't feel the need to shout about it or claim that it's saying anything new or ground-breaking. Its point is simple - that building swanky, modern buildings in places of richly-rooted culture ultimately harms people without big disposable incomes. Once it's made the point, it leaves it where it lies and moves on.

From a visual point of view, the film is a little more rough around the edges than Step Up 3 - which is a good thing. At times its colour scheme is oversaturated, so that some of the set-pieces look like either music videos or adverts for skateboarding. But Karsten Gopinath does bring a more kinetic feel in his choice of angles, and the film is edited slickly without drawing too much attention to itself.

Ultimately, what redeems Miami Heat is a sheer acknowledgement of the talent of these people. The set-pieces are among the most inventive and spectacular in the series, with exciting uses of lighting and set design which genuinely surprise us. The art gallery sequence and the grand finale are particularly impressive, but each of the set-pieces progress to a well-paced, well-planned conclusion. The choreography is irresistable, so that you find yourself going with it even against your better judgement.

Step Up 4: Miami Heat is the best instalment in the franchise since the original, marking a partial return to form after the disappointment of Step Up 3. While the series remains insultingly predictable, and the characters are as broad as ever, it has enough to say and enough evidence of the actors' talent to ultimately make you go along with it. It's hardly the best place to start in exploring the series, but of all the sequels it is the most appealing.
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2012
While still riddled with cliches, "Step Up 4: Revolution" is one of the better instalments in the franchise, bringing in an entirely new cast and having a much bigger scale for it's dance choreography. The cinematography and choreography really are the best parts of this film, and even though the characters are not the greatest, by the end you may just feel yourself caring about them. There is one huge problem with this film and that is the main plot, which is the same as son many films out there, but I liked that it did not take over the story and it was just a small element to the film. These films are meant to have a little character development, an easy story to follow, and a likeable cast in order to get us to the final dance sequences, and this film accomplishes that for the most part. You really have to be a fan of cool dancing to enjoy these films, and since I am, this did it for me and I want to see more. The reason I like these later sequels is sue to the fact that they are doing right by their material, which is what the earlier films failed to do. Overall, it's not the most memorable film, but it is fun enough.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2012
One step can change your world.

Saw it again! Very enjoyable movie! Great moves! Strength of will and right attitude are the main ingredients for getting what you want. It is not always about being in the right place at the right time. But also making sure those two will meet you half way. Overall Step Up Revolution may be one of the better movies of this series. With awesome moves, fitting soundtrack, and decent acting, it's definitely refreshing for the audience. However it is still a dance movie with a lot of skewing towards dancing and less to story, so don't expect masterpiece.

The Mob sets the dancing against the vibrant backdrop of Miami. Emily arrives in Miami with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer and soon falls in love with Sean, a young man who leads a dance crew in elaborate, cutting-edge flash mobs, called "The Mob". When a wealthy business man threatens to develop The Mob's historic neighborhood and displace thousands-of people, Emily must work together with Sean and The Mob to turn their performance art into protest art, and risk losing their dreams to fight for a greater cause.
Super Reviewer
½ August 6, 2012
This film has as much plot as the trip I just took in my trip to the restroom. I'm sorry, I usually put more class in my reviews but when a film is completely unnecessary and had no work put into the story of the film then I will put no effort into making a review for it... it was well choreographed. There.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2012
It's almost adorable how stupid this movie is.
Super Reviewer
February 7, 2013
With the high school dance scene played out, Step Up: Revolution attempts to do something new but ends up devolving into pretentious trite. A performance group called The Mob tries to win a YouTube contest by staging impromptu street performances, but things take a turn when they decide to use their art to protest an urban development project. The storytelling is particularly weak and doesn't endear the audience to the characters or their plight. Additionally, the acting is remarkably poor and has no depth. But worst of all, the dance sequences don't work: it all comes off as contrived and passionless. Formulaic and superficial, Step Up: Revolution is a pale shadow of what was once a vibrant series.
Super Reviewer
August 21, 2012
Step Up Revolution was exactly what I expected to be walking into the theater, another cliché and predictable dance flick with great dance moves but no soul. I mean let's face it, the Step Up films don't have anything great about them other than the dance moves. I can honestly say that this new film succeeds in bringing some great dancing that really entertained me, but nothing else about the movie really mattered. The characters had nothing interesting about them, the story didn't matter and was easily forgettable, and the acting was truly awful. Every Step Up film seems to love teasing the audience with a boring romance story and some other story about saving their club or dance school by dancing in some tournament, and man do they love to show off how cliché a movie script can be. I can live through the clichés since I have had to see them in the first three Step Up films, but the acting of the film is so awful that it's hard to even slightly enjoy the characters. If you want to see an example of horrible acting, I want you to witness the teens in this film because they are definition of "horrible acting." Go see this new Step Up film for the cool dance moves, but don't expect anything else.

The story follows Emily Anderson, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, arrives in Miami with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer, but soon falls in love with Sean, a young man who leads a dance crew in elaborate, cutting-edge flash mob. The crew, called the MOB, strives to win a contest for a major sponsorship opportunity, but soon Emily's father threatens to destroy the MOB's historic neighborhood and build a large hotel, and in the process, displace thousands of people. Emily must band together with Sean and the MOB to turn their performance art into protest art and risk losing their dreams to fight for a greater cause.

The plot of the film is just a quick and easy way to make another Step Up film and show off some new moves. I think I would enjoy this series much more if they would stop trying to put stories in here and just give us a 90 minute film with dancing instead. I really enjoyed the dancing and the cool environments that they gave us to watch, but I didn't care about or remember one character in this film. It was all a big clobber of teens who can't act and with a few adults that we don't really care about at all because they are just there to be the villains. This is not a teen rebellion movie, however they are trying to make it become one, and you will be lucky to find anything that is relatable with these cliché teenagers. I mean there are so many clichés in this film that it almost hurt to watch. It just felt like I was watching the same exact films that I have seen before in the series, I mean every single story to the Step Up films feel exactly the same but with some minor differences. I understand that this series is very popular and people really enjoy them, but I cannot look past the fact that the scripts to these films are just really pointless.

The cast was possibly the worst thing about the film, and I say that I nicely as I can. This group of teens was great dancers and I will give them that, but it doesn't change the fact that their performances wanted to make me rip my eyes out with watching their terrible acting. It also seems like they pretty much give these actors the same exact roles as the past films in the series so it really felt like this movie was nothing new. Kathryn McCormick is a fantastic dancer and really entertained me, sadly her acting almost made me laugh at her stupidity. Her character was given so many cliché lines that it may not have been all her fault, but it doesn't change the fact that she really annoyed me. Ryan Guzman was like watching a rock try to grow, it's not going to do anything so we must just sit there and wait for anything to happen. It was like they got the most attractive dancers possible with the worst acting and put them into this film, and that is truly sad if you ask me.

Step Up Revolution wasn't an important film and will be seen just as another Step Up film, and I really pity the man or woman who thought this story was well made. The director Scott Speer has made many music videos and I was very impressed at how well he made this dance film and how much the dancing kept me entertained. He really gave the dancing something the other films didn't, and I think the word for that is "pizzazz." Sadly the writers give him absolutely nothing to work with and the casting for the film just seemed like they wanted to get the dancers who had the worst acting abilities possible. I think the film succeeded in trying to be a good dance film, but failed in every other aspect. If this new film does well in the box-office they will probably make another Step Up film, and I honestly hope they can make an addition to the series that is not one big plot filled with clichés and horrible actors. So in conclusion, if you want some great dancing than you should go see this fun movie, but it will not be fun if you are hoping for anything beyond good dance moves.
Super Reviewer
September 24, 2012
More of a revulsion than Revolution, Step Up 4 doesn't have any new moves but it does have heart...oh wait, heart's not the word--soullessness, that's it. If anybody's wondering where the slick over-produced music videos from the '90s went, they're masquerading here as filler. At least, this chapter half interestingly angles the dance dance revolution around a flash mob before recycling the capitalist-developer-steamrolling-the-dance-venue plot from the last go-round. The last chapter only boasted the latter the franchise's obligatory Romeo and Julliard romance, that is. That component remains here, of course, with the new twosome of wooden leads demonstrating nary a trace of true chemistry like original stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan.

In this PG-rated dance flick, a girl with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer (McCormick) meets up with the leader of a flash mob dance crew (Guzman, et al) who's working class Miami neighborhood is set to be destroyed by her father's development plans.

It's just the same old song and dance with funkily choreographed dance-offs aplenty. And yes, the hoofing is well staged and shot, but the theme of dance as protest art is the only intriguing Step-ing stone. Ultimately, it's not enough to redeem the tired been-there-seen-that goings on of young beautiful people dancing to make a statement against paper-thin heavies. Step Up, Stomp the Yard, and Take the Lead on the Centerstage--it's strictly dancing-by-numbers with two left feet at this point. Forget the Wayans Brothers. The Step Up franchise has become its own parody of dance flicks.

Bottom line: So You Stink When You Dance?
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2013
Disappointing. By far the worst one.
½ December 17, 2012
typically cheesy Step Up story, but the choreography is great and the flash mob sequences are amazing.
April 7, 2014
I don't care what the rest say being from the streets gives you a different angle on this kind of movie. Yes some are actors but most are from the streets trying to make a living. The creativity of the actual dances they did was innovative and showed young adults that with passion any thing you put your mind to can be accomplished other than violence.
January 11, 2014
The dancing in this movie is beyond incredible.. I think this is the best of all the Step Up Movies..
½ August 3, 2013
Ridiculous premise aside...and I do mean absolutely ridiculous, Step Up: Revolution continues to feature some of the hottest choreographed dance sequences seen on film. But it's time these routines find an alternative method to be showcased rather than through these absurd films.
April 18, 2013
I loved the fact that there was more dancing in this one although alittle depressed that i didnt get it see more of moose and his dancing..
March 5, 2013
Kathryn McCormick great dancer, terrible acting. Still you don't watch these movies for the acting. Amazing routines and worth watching for any dance fan.
½ January 14, 2013
Predictable plot, but amazing choreography throughout the entire movie. Good-looking cast also helps...
January 4, 2013
I'm really surprised that they decided to make another Step Up movie but whatever. The reason that I gave it such a high rating is because of the dancing that they did and the music that they chose. Each song was perfectly chosen for the dance done to it. After each dance I found myself asking, "What song is that?" As a dancer, I can very much appreciate this film because the dancing is phenomenal. The dances done were definitely not easy to choreograph or to learn and seem to be alot more elaborate than the dances seen in the first 3 films, due to our ever evolving world. The dances were perfectly made and for someone that had never danced until this movie, Ryan Guzman does a fantastic job at dancing. Where the film fails is the plot. I just feel like it's a little all over the place plot-wise. There's alot going on and none of it seems to mix. Not to mention, just a tad predictable. I loved and appreciated the dancing in this movie but the plot fell a little flat.
September 6, 2012
Excellent choreography as the story was very weak. But if you appreciate art in movement, this will be your cup of tea.
December 23, 2012
I'm a sucker for all these hip-hop dance movies but this one was pretty terrible until the last 20 minutes. Also, they should have called this one DubStep Up. Ugh.
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