My first warning bell really should have been the fact that my local cinema emailed me an offer for half price tickets to see Step Up 4: The Movie of Many Names (seriously, in some areas it's Revolution, others it's Miami Heat, and apparently originally it was going to be called Step Up 4EVER. Kill me). I often get emails regarding cheaper tickets, but it's rarely specifically only for one movie, so it was safe to assume it had been a resounding box office failure and they just wanted to get people in for a final push. But hey, I'm a glutton for punishment (and I actually really enjoyed Step Up 2: The Streets), so I cashed in those cheap tickets and prepared to be disappointed.
Really, the easiest thing for you to do is to just watch this trailer. It tells you everything you need to know about the cliche-riddled plot:
Guess what, you guys? They beat the evil corporation by using DANCE, and they unite the community by using DANCE. There were so many lazy plot points that it was laughable. Rich girl and boy from wrong side of the tracks fall in love, father disapproves. Boy's best friend gets jealous of new girl, bros have a falling out. Boy & girl want to be professional dancers, families tell them to get real jobs, boy & girl prove them wrong.
Despite all that, I actually rather enjoyed it. Realistically, it's about setting the boundaries of your expectations before you go into it. If you're going to critique this as you would any other movie, then it will be found wanting. Significantly. 90% of the actors are professional dancers first and actors second, so any scenes that involved excessive dialogue or any sort of emotion were a little excruciating. My friend ended up checking her Facebook during most of those scenes.
If you shift your vision and really just enjoy the movie as a showcase of dance, then it's an absolute winner. The movie focuses mainly on hip-hop, but there's a little contemporary and latin thrown in as well. Watching several seasons of So You Think You Can Dance has made me a self-proclaimed expert on all such things, and I can say with CONVICTION that the choreography of the routines was so creative and exciting that I totally forgot about the poor excuse for a plot. You can see quite a bit of the first routine in the trailer, and they all get more and more outlandish as the movie goes on. The pieces we're dealt swing between powerful gritty & hard-hitting, slick commercial, and delicately emotive. I stuck around for the credits to see who was responsible for the magic, and was surprised to see only one guy (Jamal Sims) was listed. He did everything? Surely not. A bit of digging revealed Jamal was joined by Chris Scott and my #1 favourite So You Think You Can Dance alumni, Travis Wall. The man is a contemporary choreography genius. Unf.
Speaking of So You Think You Can Dance, you'd be excused for thinking it was a bit of a reunion movie for the cast of several seasons. Aside from Travis Wall, producer Adam Shankman has been a judge on SYTYCD since season 3, lead actress Kathryn McCormick came third in season 6, Mia Michaels flits between judge and choreographer roles, and Mob member Stephen 'Twitch' Boss came runner-up in season 4. I also spotted season 4's Phillip Chbeeb as a background Mob member. There were quite a few other very familiar faces that I couldn't put names to, but it was fun trying to pick everyone out.
If the review hasn't already hammered this point home, this isn't really a movie for fans of cinema, this is a movie for fans of dance. I saw it in 2D, which for the first time ever I actually kind of regretted. Some of the sequences would have been absolutely rockin' in 3D, and I'm almost (almost) tempted to go and see it again. Although it was artistically much better than Magic Mike, I couldn't really rate it any higher than that, so...
I give Step Up 4 Revolution 3 pop locks out of 5