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Movie Reviews

Plot thin but dancing impressive in fourth bust-a-move ‘Step Up’ drama

Plot thin but dancing impressive in fourth bust-a-move ‘Step Up’ drama

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Neil Pond
American Profile
August 8, 2012
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Starring Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman & Peter Gallagher • PG-13, 99 min.

“Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?” goes a classic ’60s Motown hit. “Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street.”

Fifty years later, they’re still dancing in the street---and just about everywhere else, too. At least it’s that way in “Step Up Revolution,” the fourth in the popular series of bust-a-move dance dramas about good-looking young movers and groovers who just don’t feel like they’re living unless they’re out there breakin’, lockin’ and poppin’.

And as for the “brand new beat,” it’s shuffled a few miles down the road from Motown, and it might sound new, indeed, if your ears haven’t quite acclimated to the bass-heavy, woofer-rattling sounds of Busta Rhymes, Twista, Redfoo, Timbaland, Diplo, Flo Rida, Lil Jon, Yelawolf and the other hip-hop, contemporary pop and dance-hit artists that populate the practically nonstop soundtrack.

Plot, you ask? Well, there is one, but it’s basically a shoestring to hold together the elaborate dance numbers---which are, admittedly, quite spectacular. The story is woven around a Miami-based group known as “The Mob” that stages explosive “flash mob” events hoping to win an online race (and its whopping cash prize) to get 10 million YouTube views of their video-uploaded exploits.

They dance on top of cars at Miami’s tourist-packed Riverwalk, down the escalator of a downtown corporate complex, across the tabletop of a ritzy restaurant, and throughout a tony art museum, always attracting the oohs and ahhs of onlookers but hot-footing away a few beats ahead of police and security guards.

But things heat up even more when a beautiful, formally trained female dancer (Kathryn McCormick) enters the picture, falls in love with the Mob’s hunkiest hoofer (Ryan Guzman)---and turns out to be the daughter of the wealthy hotel tycoon (Peter Gallagher) who wants to tear down the dance crew’s funky bayside neighborhood and transform it into Miami’s next retail mecca.

The Mob doesn’t take that kind of news sitting down, and soon their performances become protests to make their voices heard above the din of the dollar signs.

The acting won’t win any awards---mainly because “acting” is in short supply and dancers outnumber actors by a ratio of about 20:1. (Gallagher, a veteran of dozens of movies and TV shows, does a commendable job as the lone pillar of real dramatic experience in the swirl of music and movement.)

It’s easy to slam a movie like this as just another piece of pop bubblegum. But there’s more to it that, especially for anyone who can appreciate the intense, professional work that goes into planning, choreographing, rehearsing and executing such complex, intensely aerobic, athletic, even airborne maneuvers, which may surprise some viewers in their wide incorporation of styles.

There’s just about every urban street move you might imagine---as you might imagine. But there’s also a range of modern, classical and even Cirque de Soleil-inspired routines. Anyone who loves watching any kind of dance (and, based on the popularity of the TV shows “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With The Stars,” there are a few of you who do) will find something to appreciate and admire.

And one thing to appreciate and admire could be actress Kathryn McCormick, who plays Emily, the dancer with classical training who wants to widen her repertoire by joining The Mob. McCormick is an alum of the 2007 season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” where she placed third and received the most fan votes of any female contestant in the finale. Several other former contestants, judges and choreographers from the hit TV competition, now going into its ninth season, also appear in the movie, or were otherwise involved with it.

So you may not think YOU can dance---at least not like this. But it IS summertime, and you know what that means. If you’re not going to be hitting the streets yourself, at least give these dance-crazy kids a chance to show off their considerable chops. You’ll be impressed, entertained, and all but certainly wowed...even if you’re more familiar with the Yellow Pages than Yelawolf.

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