Friday, August 1, 2014

Step Up Retrospective: Step Up Revolution (2012)

Step Up Revolution
Director: Scott Speer
Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Peter Gallagher, Misha Gabriel Hamilton, Stephen Boss, Tommy Dewey, Megan Boone, Adam G Sevani
Rated: PG-13

 4 basically strips away all the fun, lively characters and shamelessly silly plot devices, leaving audiences to sit through dead-eyed models longingly staring at each other like they're in a Revlon commericial. 
                          ~Randy Shaffer

Were audiences turned off by Step Up 3D?  What happened here?  This film almost feels like a reaction to the previous 2 films instead of a follow.  It drastically moves away from what made 2&3 so much fun and a good time and instead making boring, poorly executed generic dance movie that feels like someone who doesn't understand the series trying to make their own version.  While I had been warned, the disappointment of this film was something I truly needed to witness to understand.  It doesn't feel at all like a Step Up film.  This is the kinda bullshit I thought I'd be watching when i got into this retrospective, but have been pleasantly surprised how NOT this they were.  While the film may end strong, you're all but checked out in this poorly executed 4th effort.
Let's start with the dancing.  Early on we're treated to a couple numbers and already this film is not going well.  Not only does Scott Speer not know how to film these sequences, he's almost afraid to let you sit and enjoy any minute of it.  Too many cuts during character action to something completely different.  It results in just looking like people shaking around.  And these styles in the open, and the beach dance I could go to any local bar/night/dance club in town and see the same type of dancing going on.  Its nothing special and I'm sure it's choreographed but it feels incredibly lazy and pedestrian compared to the other films.  This one is too obsessed with "sexing up" the dances and making them raunchy instad of "wow'ing" us with their explosiveness, dangerous manuevers and athletic ability.
All the dances are not a raunch-fest, but after the first two, the dances slow way down.  Step Up Revolution then becomes obsessed with making art pieces as opposed to loud and crowd pleasing big band number.  And, I'll admit, the idea and what they're doing is very neat.  But it doesn't move the film at all and bring no exhileration and excitment to the table.  And once again, Scott Speer has no idea how to film these and they come off as slightly disjointed and they feel like they rob you of what you're seeing because they cut away in the middle of some cool and integral moves.  I like what they did in the museum, but there was far to much going on in different rooms.  As beautiful as its trying to be, its kind of all over the place and lacks cohesion to make it really work. 
While I've just discussed dancing, for much of this piece, the film doesn't feel at all interested in it.  Its far more consumed with its lame and uninteresting plot.  Its yet another "prove yourself in the dance world" AND "save my house/hometown/career" plot.  Unlike the other films where they had similar plots, they at least were aware of how unimportant and silly or tired they could be and embraced it and made the details ridiculous and fun.  This film treats the material like its the bible.  And as the film wears on, you'll have to pick your head up off the floor because it is soooooo damn boring.  There's short dancing and what feels like long ass scenes that lose your attention and patience.
Not helping is this absolutely terrible cast they've assembled.  Look at the quote I used above.  That's exactly what is going on here.  No, Step Up is not masterpiece theater, but it has been passable or fun.  These people could not convince me they were walking through a doorway.  The line readings are so flat are some of the most poor I've every seen in a big budget release.  They put a girl from So You Think You Can Dance in the lead and immediatley you can see the show is not called So You Think You Can Act.  Plus, I wonder if they put her here in the lead because she resembles Katy Perry?  I dunno.  Our lead character Sean stinks but would possibly be passable with a better supporting cast.  One of the worst offenders of all is his best friend Eddy who manages to set a record for botching or sabotaging big important moments in a film.  To this point the Step Up films have been full of a diverse, colorful people in the cast that paint the frame with their attitude and demeaner.  This looks like an ad in a beach catalog come to life.  These people should stick to still frames instead of moving ones.
At the last moment, this film manages to realize its a Step Up film and ends like one.  We get Moose back for a cameo, which was like "Jesus Christ buddy, we have missed you SOOOO DAMN much! DO NOT go away again please!".  And the dance number at the end really actually feels like a Step Up movie and is a lot of fun to watch even is Scott Speer has no idea how to capture it.  There was also a moment where I cheered out loud in my living room when the Robot Guy from Step Up 3D returned in an unexpected and super awesome way!  My wife thought I was ridiculous, but at the time, I needed it!  The film then ends sooooo damn ridiculously though that its an utter slap in the face that the first 9/10 of the film took the plot so seriously.  I was expecting the hospital to call Sean saying they cured cancer, then the bank telling him "we're giving you all the money" followed by the President calling him and saying "I'd like to make you the Secretary of Dance".  Yes, its just about that stupid how this all ends.
Step Up Revolution, only in 2 years of existence has been retitled Step Up 4: Miami Heat and Step Up 4Ever and then back to Step Up Revolution, is an incredible disappointment.  It would have even been a big disappointment following The Streets.  It just goes to show how important Jon M Chu is to this franchise.  He's the only one that has truly understood it of the 3 directors.  He's the Justin Lin of this franchise easily.  Going into Step Up All In, I have hope that this new "first time" director can regain some of this franchise's energy.  And they're "bringing back" a big crew from the first four films...which...if you watch the films isn't something new since all of them do that to a degree.  My main concern is two of the worst actors in the series, and worst characters at that are coming back and that's Sean and Eddy from this film.  But, hey, with new talent behind the scenes, maybe they can get something out of them.  Anyway, I'm very intrigued if they Fast Five this next one and make a massive dance classic for the ages.  We'll see how this all winds up next weekend. 

NEXT UP: A new-look TURTLE movie and Step Up goes ALL IN

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