Step Up Revolution is by no measure a good movie, but this is to be expected from the fourth film in an already hairy series. But it attempts to make up for these shortcomings with a heavy dose of topicality and purpose. In this case, the film echoes the sentiments of Occupy Wall Street, but with the ludicrous addition of dance numbers — positing for the first time that the revolution will be Dougie’d. Even though the film eventually cops out when it comes to the ideals it spouts, Revolution at least has the sense to take cues from Step Up 3D and be — at the very least — stupid enough to never be boring.
The movie takes place in Miami, where our hero Sean (Ryan Guzman) is a waiter by day and member of a flash mob cleverly named The Mob in his free time. The Mob’s whole purpose is to stage public stunts — like shutting down a street or infiltrating an art gallery for dance numbers — all of in the name of YouTube hits (and a large amount of contest money to boot). But things get serious when Sean learns his neighborhood’s about to be turned into a resort by a greedy developer, Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher). With the help of Anderson’s disaffected daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick), Sean concocts a plan to push The Mob into the world of “protest art” and save his — and his friends’ — home.
The entire idea is pretty silly, going only slightly beyond the old trope about a bunch of teens attempting to save their community center. The film’s political points are pretty salient to begin with — at least compared to something like Dark Knight Rises, which uses current events more as window dressing — pitting the working stiffs of The Mob against their employers. But this falls apart in a depressing fashion when last message the film leaves us with is the idea that we’ll all sell out in the end — especially if someone waves a Nike contract in our face. This is after the film wraps up nice and tidy, as all of The Mob’s problems are solved through the power of dance, and we relive the history of Step Up, complete with guest appearances from films past (with, unfortunately, no Channing Tatum).
It’s that kind of film. And while there’s enough happening within the context of the movie to rarely have a dull moment, there’s unfortunately not a strong enough cast to make this goofy thing honestly palatable. The entire cast is a like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of franchise’s original film (right down to lead Ryan Guzman coming across as a fourth-rate Tatum, as horrific as that sounds). There’s nothing realistic about Step Up Revolution, which is both its bane (amateurish direction and stilted acting rule the day) and its boon. After all, the real point is the dancing. Interesting compositions pop up in the art gallery sequence, but the film doesn’t let loose into full-blown absurdity too often, and feels like a lot of “been there, done that” (at least if you’ve gotten stuck reviewing as many dance flicks as I have). Step Up Revolution’s greatest failing is perhaps its lack of importance, inherent silliness. The film just lets it all fly in a full-blown fit of cinematic inanity. Maybe one day this franchise will get there. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive dancing and language.