It’s an odd thing to watch a movie in the Step Up series and marvel at its social consciousness. Step Up Revolution, the fourth in the series, may be a pretty standard issue teen-aimed, hip hop-soundtracked cinematic throwaway on its surface, but bubbling underneath is a film that has something to say about the act of protesting – in this case through the art of dance.
The story is ablout what you’d expect from this type of movie: underdogs from a low income neighbourhood along the Miami waterfront face a tycoon (Peter Gallagher) intent on replacing their homes with a new luxury hotel. This particular tycoon has a dancer daughter (Kathryn McCormick) who’s intent on rebelling against Daddy’s wish for her to find a more stable line of work. As expected, tycoon daughter and lead underdog (Ryan Guzman) meet and are soon falling in love while performing in protest flash mobs all over the city. Do tycoon daughter and lead underdog end up together? Does tycoon daddy eventually see the light and leave the neighbourhood alone? Does the previously illegal flash mob not only become embraced by the community but also become celebrated enough that the previously broke members broker themselves a future-securing endorsement deal? If you don’t immediately know the answers to all of these questions, you’ve probably never seen another dance movie in your life (and should educate yourself further by watching some from my list of dance movies that don’t suck).
What is different about this particular film is that unlike most others in the genre, writers Duane Adler and Jenny Mayer are clearly attempting to urge their young target demographic to not be complacent about what goes on in the world around them. By employing the old “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” educational tactic, they’re explaining to teens that there are numerous ways to practice free speech, you just have to find the way that works best for you. It’s refreshing to see, especially for a series that has never exceled at anything other than providing dance sequences that are pure spectacle – which this one does in spades as well (LED ballerinas! Trampoline tricks!).
Step Up Revolution may not be the best in the series (that honour goes to Step Up 2: The Streets) but it’s a dance movie with a pointe shoe dipping shallowly into the waters of political discourse. That’s certainly a Step Up in the right direction.
Step Up Revolution is now available on DVD. Check out one of Toronto’s many indie video shops to get your very own copy.
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