Step Up Revolution — Did It Really Step It Up?
by Danielle Diniz | Cornell University
The fourth installation of the Step Up movies, Step Up Revolution, made its way to theaters this weekend. Despite 86 percent of audiences giving it a thumbs-up according to Rotten Tomatoes, I was wary as I entered the theater considering only 35 percent of critics gave it OK reviews. I grew up being taught by some of the movie’s choreographers, so I knew first-hand that although the storyline might be mundane and the acting corny, the quality of dance would make up for it… and that’s exactly how it panned out.
Although Kathryn McCormick’s performance was a little less than inspiring, Ryan Guzman puts on a fairly good show. McCormick, though a gorgeous contemporary dancer who executed hip-hop equally as well, fails to master believable vocal intonation and other aspects that should make her character come alive. Guzman, although not as versatile of a dancer, charismatically asserts himself as a force to be reckoned with from the start.
The recycled storyline however takes on only a small twist as Revolution brings us to the Miami heat. What goes down? In a nutshell — boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl like boy and joins crew, there’s some trouble, everything is resolved and boy and girl get together. This sums up every Step Up in lamest terms, but the execution of each dance in Revolution were beyond exquisite. The mysterious Mob that infiltrates Miami hotspots tries to make a statement by “voicing” their own form of “protest art,” choreographing and performing some of the most memorable routines. From hip-hoping in South Beach’s streets to making art come to life in a museum (complete with contortionists and glow in the dark ballerinas) to total takeover of an office building, this group of ‘street folk’ never disappoint.
The movie’s success lies fully in the casting. The choreographers chosen (i.e. Christopher Scott and Travis Wall) and the array of already well-known dancers (including Twitch and Adam Sevani) created pieces with tricks and movement only the most skilled could remotely pull off. Although for the most part the movie as a whole was perhaps more hip-hop heavy than usual, it showcased amazing technique and stunts that are still hard to wrap my head around as physically possible. They also utilized heavy-duty props, creative costuming and the inherent coolness of a culture to make the magic.
Producer Adam Shankman has been advertising the movie shamelessly on SYTYCD for weeks and even though it became annoying at times, he knew how to target the perfect audience. As I already mentioned the lack of the storyline’s originality, what was left was a hyped up episode of SYTYCD, featuring many of its dancers, choreographers and quality work. The only difference I accounted for, and in turn was shocked by, was the amount of sex appeal. The sheer number of slow-moving camera shots alone captured some somewhat uncomfortable moments as the two protagonists at times did nothing but ‘step up’ the intimacy. McCormick’s beginning moves on the beach are only a preview of what transpires. This slight uncomfortability I felt did in fact divert my concentration and took away from the experience. I wanted to invest in the characters’ trajectories, but was instead worried about how the onscreen action was going to progress and how the 10 year olds next to me would view what dance can be portrayed as.
Again however, they anticipated their audience well considering the songs chosen for the film. Songs that went beyond just great pop beats… the tunes of Cinematic Orchestra (“To Build a Home”) and The Irrepressibles (“In This Shirt”) are being used everywhere, non-stop in the dance world right now, so they make a personal connection with those of us who have actually performed to them in the past year or so.
Bottom line — if you’re looking for something light and fun — something to bop to, but still be impressed by — I highly recommend the film. Dance is becoming more integral than ever before as amateur dancers are on the quest to conquer the kicks and flips the professionals do effortlessly every day. National Dance Day may have just passed, but this is the perfect way to get back in the groove, so step up and take the floor!Danielle is a NGJ Staff Writer and a junior double majoring in English and Theater at Cornell University, with a particular interest in Shakespeare. She also writes for the Cornell Daily Sun.