Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Even the most hardcore ‘Step Up’ fans don’t walk into the theaters expecting a clever screenplay. But the latest installment of the franchise responsible for Channing Tatum’s fame is skimpier than his costumes in ‘Magic Mike’. A triple whammy of cardboard characters, implausible plot and cheesy dialogue that seems right out of a poorly made Bollywood musical comes to the mind.
Here’s the hero: Working-class waiter of Cuban extraction Sean (Ryan Guzman) leads The Mob, an ambitious flash mob dance posse that is taking Miami by storm, with a mission of raising the most online viral video views of its’ elaborately staged, impromptu public dances to snag a US$100,000 cash prize.
In a chance meeting, he meets Emily (Kathryn McCormick), dance obsessed scion of real estate baron Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher), no prizes for guessing that the gorgeous young duo dance in a sun dappled Miami beach (thanks to 3D we can feel sand being thrown onto our faces) and fall madly in love soon after.
As the mushy class conscious romance ala ‘Dirty Dancing’ develops, Emily joins a prestigious classical dance school to become a pro (despite dad’s reservations) while our hunky hero continues serving drinks in girlfriend dad’s hotel and carrying out ingenious plans for The Mob, which includes roping his new beau as a lead dancer in even more spectacular, public dance coups.
But wealthy daddy has a devious plan to redevelop the entire working class neighborhood into a playground for the rich and The Mob who are based in the enclave become tetchy and hapless. So, wily little daughter moots the idea of transforming the performance art inspired flash mobs into politically, charged protest art to save the neighborhood from her dad.
The “twists” in the narrative development are so ponderous and leave little to imagination that one could walk in the middle of the film and yet have a sense what’s been happening earlier.
A staple of the predecessors of this successful box-office franchise was the feral showcase of various dance crews slugging it away on the streets, instead this edition veers from its’ comfort zone and pirouettes into the trendy world of The Mob.
How the hell this seemingly blue-collared urban dance group that appears to have zilch in the kitty, manages to have a sleek dance cavern, impeccable costumes, hacking facilities, superbly choreographed dance routines, spin mistress, videographer, art director and production values that would even make the likes of Danny Boyle beam in pride, is the main thing that any semi-intelligent patron would be wise to ditch in order to enjoy this escapist extravaganza.
Here was a great opportunity for the team of four screenwriters (you heard right) to exploit but instead we are fed with the same tired generalizations of here’s the Hispanic street artist who doesn’t speak but comes up with butt-kicking art, that’s the hero’s best mate, here’s the black chick with the dopest remixes and a whole litany of lazy characterization that even a Twitter savvy tween would mock. Come on the least, the audience needs to know is how the hell they seem to conjure such massive projects (they can’t be just running it with tips from their low paying temp jobs).
The point is when the dancing stops, it nosedives into Razzie lauded corniness that only the staunchest of Bollywood fans are able to digest. Even the happy ending smacks of first grade hypocrisy and blatant sell-out, a huge multi-national sporting giant waves a contract for The Mob and they hurl their newly formed political activism to the sea and celebrate (yeah, don’t our anti-globalization protesters go around marching in Nikes during these irony laced days).
However, all these pertinent aspects of movie making don’t matter because we are in a dark cinema with our 3-D glasses on, primarily for the dancing. And The Mob’s superbly choreographed showcases where hordes of muscular jocks and lithesome honeys tastefully gyrate are the piece de resistance here.
Built with a heady mélange of hip-hop, acrobatic and parkour inspired moves all set to Aaron Zigman’s score of mostly diluted dubstep remixes, choreographers Jamal Sims, Travis Wall and Chris Scott conjure some of the most magical dance sequences ever seen in Hollywood this year.
The standouts include the performance at the Miami Modern Art Museum where the Mob gatecrashes into a posh party and literally make paintings come alive with camouflaged dancers popping out of the canvas (ala Gotye’s ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ music video) and a bevy of tutu clad dancers moving in tandem to a dazzling display of lights and (ahem) more dubstep beats.
But despite the well-crafted dance showcases, one can’t help but feel that director Scott Speer and cinematographer Crash could have shown more of the subtle emotional nuances on the dancers’ faces instead of endlessly feeding us with jarring, rapier-quick cutaways that did not accentuate the extraordinary prowess of the dancers.
In the end, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of an ice cream, a decadent pleasure where a little cameo from Step Up’s favorite geek Moose (Adam Sevani) and a whole tonne of eye-catching pops and locks will satiate most punters.