Do too many cooks spoil the broth? Step Up 4: Miami Heat (aka Step Up: Revolution) has an incredible six executive producers to its name making you wonder if the franchise is becoming a little over inflated (a flashmob of execs?) as it moves forward.
Re-imagining the street dance movie and removing the battle element, Step Up 4 has moved out of the ‘hood (previous Step Ups have been set in Baltimore and New York) and takes place at some point during a perpetual spring break on the Miami strip populated by Abercrombie and Fitch models working low paid jobs at a hotel under the command of the new executive and developer Bill Anderson played by Peter Gallagher of The OC.
For Sean (Ryan Guzman, who has actually posed as an A&F model) it’s a tough choice between working at a shipping company in Miami’s docks or choosing to dance in impromptu flash mobs with his crew, The Mob, with partner in crime Eddy (Misha Gabriel) in order to try and win a cash prize for getting the most views on YouTube.
He meets outsider Emily (Kathryn McCormick, who was a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance in America) who happens to be Mr Anderson’s only child and has the choice of becoming a professional dancer by the end of summer or joining her father on his hotel and property company. Sadly, her dance teacher (Mia Michaels – a So You Think You Can Dance judge) tells her, she “lacks originality” so she sets her sights on joining The Mob.
Seem cliched and recycled so far?
Cue the intertwining storylines of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo and Dirty Dancing with all the 80s cringe moments as the community has to fight back against an evil property developer/daddy from bulldozing the local community through ‘protest dance!’
As dancers worthy of being amateur terrorists or even the Anonymous hacking group of dance, The Mob manage to hijack corporate events for their protest dancing by obtaining building blueprints so they can make a point whilst concealing their identity (this is a plot gap worthy of a spin-off series set in Guantanamo).
Everything has been pumped up like the hydraulics on the cars in the exciting opening sequence and the approach taken towards devising the the flash mob concepts is on another level, but the investment in the choreography doesn’t always pay off. A flash mob taking place in a museum is nothing short of spectacular and visionary, almost like a music video at points thanks to Karsten ‘Crash’ Gopinath as director of photography, but other mobs border on average, possibly watered down by the fact scenes had to be choreographed on a large scale and for 3D cameras. After several in your face dance movies we can conclude that 3D doesn’t compliment choreography at all.
But back to the movie: The of using stepping, the dance style showcased in Stomp The Yard 2 choreographed by Chuck Maldonado just isn’t a spectacular style of dance – if the sequel is called ‘Step Up‘ it deserves to be better than the preceding movie.
Taking out the battle aspect of a hip hop dance movie loses one of the reasons to dance, even if the form of ‘protest dance’ gives it another breath of life, and it shows as set pieces lack soul and feeling: Swagger choreography that’s over choreographed and just not grimy enough. Oddly it’s the contemporary dance that holds the spotlight, and holds it quite well.
Video: Step Up 4 Opening Sequence
Jon M Chu, producer for Step Up 4, is very much the dance director of his time – we’re talking someone who created the LXD, promoted a questionable Coke Zero campaign and launched his own dance lifestyle channel on YouTube – but huge movies like this is exactly how newbies to dance see the world and there are some interesting questions to ask here, such as “Is this what dancing has become now – about popularity contest on YouTube?”
Step Up films used to market themselves as ‘hip hop fairy tales,’ but without a hip hop foundation to them they’re just the MTV versions of urban culture with less and less soul with more and more Nike product placement.
The sense of getting lost in a bad storyline but with magical dance moments has been lost on the latest film, and for a movie that some viewers may have grown up with watching Moose (Adam Sevani, Step Up 2 and 3) blossom from a lanky teenager to a young adult who is this movie aimed at? Adults that live in Beverly Hills?
It’s never been hotter
Step Up 4 is glossy but over sexy with thick booty shaking you’d expect from a Snoop Dogg video and not from a Disney film (Disney owns Summit, Step Up‘s film studio), and some very risqué and overly suggestive dry sex duets. The introduction to Street Dance 3D might have opened to a scene that was post-coitus, but Step Up 4 pushes that envelope at several points, barely passing for a PG certificate.
Perhaps its the fact that all the press material constantly refers to Step Up as a ‘franchise’ and not as a movie that really spoils the fun. It’s the subtle hint that says each sequel is about spinning money for the studios. Jon M Chu has enough incredible dancers in his phone book to fill this movie with America’s best dancers but doesn’t feature them, despite the central role they play in the LXD series.
Step Up 3 was the most outstanding Step Up movie yet in terms of Disney magic and dance spectacles. Born from a Boom Box – remember that? The latest movie is far from being a revolution.