People don’t always turn on their Blu-ray players hoping to see a great movie. Sometimes they’re more interested in having a laugh or watching some people get killed. Most successful genre films are well aware of this fact and apportion their eggs accordingly. They don’t waste time building an intricate plot structure if rapid fire laughs are the goal, and they don’t give too much backstory about random henchmen whose primary purpose is to get their heads chopped off. In this respect, Step Up Revolution is a success. Director Scott Speer is fully aware viewers are here to see a choreographed extravaganza filled with shocking dance maneuvers and steady energy, and he structures the film in order to maximize gyrating time.
Much of that gyrating time is actually handled effectively, too. During the group scenes, there’s a wonderful balance between foreground focus and background movement. Great care is taken to mix dancers with different styles, and none of the bits go on for too long. The costumes are interesting without being too distracting, and the locations are intelligently chosen to provide clever opportunities for movement. In fact, the introductory number in the street and the ensemble in the museum are among the best the series has ever given us. Unfortunately, while focusing on the central appeal element is a good idea for a genre film, the plot still has to be decent and the characters still have to be likeable to make the larger work a success. They both have to be some level of passable for a film to work, and Step Up Revolution fails on both accounts.
The basic story arc follows a loose collection of Miami, Florida dancers trying to win $100,000 in a YouTube sponsored contest. To generate more views than their competition, Sean (Ryan Guzman), Eddie (Misha Gabriel) and their buddies plan complicated flash mobs. They tape the well-planned chaos and put the results online. Unfortunately, life gets in the way when a powerful builder (Peter Gallagher) comes to town with a plan to level a portion of their neighborhood. He wants to put up a new luxury hotel. His daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick) wants to be a part of the flash mobs, and all the conflicting wants get extremely messy.
It’s basically your standard white collar versus blue collar plot. Hypothetically, this should work for a movie about dancing in Miami, but practically, we’re never given enough reasons to dislike the white collar crowd. We’re supposed to turn on the hotel manager after Eddie is fired for being twenty minutes late to a meeting with his new boss, but really, why the hell would they keep a below-average, slacker waiter around who shows up twenty minutes late to an important event? The same logic applies to the builder too. Is he really a dick for buying waterfront property to put up a hotel in Miami? Every single major city in the world has been continually rebuilt by changing the demographics in certain neighborhoods. That process is still going on today.
Step Up Revolution would have worked a lot better if it kept economics and real problems on the sidelines and instead made its plot about this flash mob team battling some rich, prep school d-bags to get the most hits in the YouTube contest. With those lower stakes, the end result would have been far better. That being said, however, it’s hard to trash this film when it does successfully deliver good dancing. I don't even like coordinated movement, and I was interested. God only knows how fascinated people who actually have good rhythm might be.
Just like the film itself, the special features are well aware of why people are here. “Choreography” allows Jamal Sims, Christopher Scott and Travis Wall to talk about why they went in certain directions with different dance numbers and what it was like to try and blend so many different styles together. “Makin’ The Mob” looks at what talents each of the leads brought to the table. “Becoming A Star” focuses on Ryan Guzman’s quest to keep up with his much more experienced co-star Kathryn McCormick, and “Dancing On Their Own” is quite possibly the coolest extra on the entire disc. During rain delays, breaks in production and lunch hours, the extras and the cast members would kill time by improv dancing and doing all kinds of crazy shit. Most of it was taped, and the better parts were compiled together here.
Step Up Revolution also offers fans a menu to help fans hop straight to specific flash mob dancing scenes. There are two very dance heavy music videos from Jennifer Lopez and Timbaland. Both, of course, offer some sweet choreography in their own rights. The commentary is also worth listening to based on the likeability of Speer, Guzman and McCormick. They seem to intuitively know the right balance between nerdy information, funny stories and location bitching to make it listenable, which an overwhelming majority of movie commentaries are not.