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Entries in Dance Movie (2)

Friday
Jul272012

Step Up Revolution

Critics often decry awards shows like the MTV Movie Awards and the People’s Choice Awards because experts don’t pick them. The people do and they tend to confuse their personal preference with actual quality. Many nominees, and therefore winners, skew towards films that are popular, but not necessarily good. The Twilight franchise’s sweep of the MTV Movie Awards over the last few years is a good indication of this problem. Some would argue that critics are simply acting self-righteous, as if they have the final say on what’s good and what isn’t, but when the movie going public has supported the Step Up franchise enough to extend it to four movies, can we really consider their opinions valid? The latest installment, Step Up Revolution, is more or less on equal ground as its predecessor, Step Up 3D, but that was so bad, it easily nabbed a spot on my list of the worst films of 2010, so that should put into perspective just how bad this thing is.

The loose story (“loose” in the sense that I’m not even sure it qualifies as one) follows a ragtag group of dancers, nicknamed the Mob, as they flash mob various parts of Miami and record it in the hopes of reaching ten million channel hits on YouTube before anyone else, which would net them all $100,000. They quickly realize that money isn’t everything, though, when a business mogul strikes a deal to begin a billion dollar development project down a destitute strip in Miami that just so happens to be where the Mob lives. Their dance routines quickly transition from performance art to protest art and with the help of Emily (Kathryn McCormick), the dance loving daughter of the evil business mogul, they aim to claim their streets.

And everyone knows the only way to spark change in the world is through the power of dance. Never mind the fact that the Mob is holding up traffic, illegally infiltrating businesses, interrupting private parties and press conferences and all around disturbing the peace. These kids need to express themselves. It’s best not to ask how they’re able to do all this without someone noticing, especially given that many of these places are well stocked on guards, or how they know the layout of these places, including the exact arrangement of their interiors, well enough to choreograph their moves on and around them. Logic is not this series’ strong suit.

There’s a moment in the movie when mob leader Sean (Ryan Guzman), the love interest of Emily, speaks about why he dances. He says it’s because he feels invisible to the city. He wants to speak up and say, “Look at me world. I’m here.” Then he turns to Emily and asks if that sounds lame. The easy answer is yes, not to mention pathetic and whiny. But in a movie that prominently features the long since clichéd plot of stopping an evil businessman from pushing people out of their shops and homes to build on them, what should we expect?

Step Up Revolution isn’t about all that. It’s just a thin plot device to make an excuse to have a great deal of dance numbers, most of which are no more interesting than your generic shoot-out in an action movie. You can throw dance moves in front of me all you want, but doing so isn’t enough to make your movie fun. Similar to Step Up 3D, which delighted for a few minutes at least with a snazzy Fred Astaire-esque dance number, this movie has brief moments of entertainment, mainly in the backend of the film. One clever moment comes with the use of trampolines as one dancer falls screaming off of a shipping container only to bounce back up, seemingly defying gravity to the spectators looking on (again, it’s better not to ask how they managed to build a trampoline into the roof of the shipping container itself—just go with it), but this is only a small positive in a movie washed with horrible acting (also like the last film, the actors were chosen on their dancing skills rather than their ability to emote), a harebrained story, forced conflict and a far too neat and speedy resolution. To make matters worse, the movie completely contradicts itself at the end. The story stresses the importance of expressing yourself and sparking change in people; money’s importance is depreciated. But when the Mob is offered a deal with Nike, they jump at the chance to throw away their values (“Where do I sign?” one dancer responds—just another example in a long line of hackneyed dialogue).

I could probably double the length of what I’ve already written if I desired to point out every little flaw in the entire movie—there are dozens more I could go in depth on—but that’s a frivolous endeavor. People know what they’re getting themselves into when they go see a Step Up movie, but let’s remember this. Personal preference does not equate to actual quality. Regardless of whether or not people like it, Step Up Revolution is a bad movie.

Step Up Revolution receives 0.5/5

Friday
Aug062010

Step Up 3D

As I walked out of the newest dance movie, Step Up 3D, after having taken off my glasses and readjusted my eyes to normal lighting, I didn’t know what to say. How could I put into words what I had just seen? I did my best to describe to those around me what I thought was a cinematic abomination and as I did, a fellow critic spoke up and told me I should judge this movie the way one judges martial arts films. Just as you disregard the story in a kung fu movie, he claimed you should do the same here and simply enjoy the dancing. Well, I refuse to do that. One decent positive in an overwhelmingly negative film isn’t nearly enough to warrant even the slightest praise for what could very well be the worst movie of the year.

The story follows Moose (Adam G. Sevani), an upcoming freshman at New York University. His parents have put everything on the line to put him in school and are happy he has decided to give up dancing and pursue an education. But Moose soon discovers giving up his passion isn’t so easy when he beats (serves?) a local dancer after being randomly challenged in the streets. Impressed, Luke (Rick Malambri) takes him under his wing and introduces him to his dance gang, the Pirates. Their crib, what they have deemed “The Vault,” is behind on its mortgage and in danger of being foreclosed. The only way to raise the money is to win the upcoming World Jam and, whaddya know, Moose is just the kid to help them do it.

Full disclosure: I know very little about dance and, frankly, I don’t care to learn. I’ve never enjoyed dancing (at least not without some liquid encouragement in me first) and have never understood the fascination of watching people flail their bodies around in unison. Well, that’s all this thing has to offer. With a cut and paste script and nearly a dozen scenes of random dancing outbursts, I’m not convinced this is even a movie.

I say this because it instead feels like a prolonged episode of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” Its most easily relatable film, at least conceptually, is Vanilla Ice’s Cool as Ice, which was laden with music video-like aesthetics and random song interludes, and God knows that’s no compliment. Step Up 3D is what movies would look like if easily amused children were in charge of Hollywood. It’s the type of film that tests your patience and sucks your soul dry.

Quite simply, it’s a catastrophe. It’s a film that mistakes dancing for macho posturing, as if losing a dance battle had any real bearing on anything meaningful. It’s one of those annoying hipster movies that uses phrases like “off the chain” and creates acronyms to describe its characters. Early in the movie, Luke tells Moose he’s B-FAB—Born From A Boombox. After hearing this, I was wishing neither of them were ever born at all.

Now, I suppose the dancing is ok, but I liken it to a football movie. We only need to see so many football scenes before we get bored. The conundrum here is that, just like an overblown sports picture, there’s too much dancing, but tone it down and the film’s glaring flaws more noticeably shine through.

And they shine bright enough. As expected, the cast was chosen on the basis of their dancing skills more than anything else, but what this results in is acting that would be considered lousy in a home video. Even the director, John Chu, whose only other notable film is Step Up 2: The Streets, is lost behind the camera and spends too much time ensuring that the audience notices the 3D, framing shots so the dancers are coming directly at you. Then factor in the awful attempts at humor and stupid story with asinine plot turns that are played laughably dramatic, like the leaking of the squad’s rehearsal footage to the Internet, and you have an epically bad movie for the ages.

I can say one thing for the Step Up franchise. Time will remember them. When future generations look back at this period in cinema, they will note the swarm of dance movies with which we’ve been bombarded. They will watch and study them and, if society has progressed by then, they’ll laugh. Step Up 3D, more than any other, will serve as the basis for how not to make a movie, dance or otherwise.

Step Up 3D receives 0/5