STEP UP REVOLUTION – Review by Susan Granger

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In this fourth installment of the popular, if predictable franchise, the stage is set in Miami, where Emily (Kathryn McCormick) has aspirations of becoming a professional dancer and falls in love with Sean (Ryan Guzman), who – with his childhood buddy Eddy (Misha Gabriel) – lead an underground dance crew in elaborate, cutting-edge flash mobs which are captured on video to compete for $1 million in a YouTube contest.

But when a ruthless real estate developer (Peter Gallagher), who happens to be Emily’s father, threatens to turn their historic neighborhood into commercial property and displace thousands of multiracial people, Emily, Sean and their friends turn their Mob performance into protest art, risking their personal dreams to fight for a greater cause.

That’s all quite admirable EXCEPT for a major fumble: when the dancers sneak into a party, wearing body vests and gas masks, using smoke bombs and gas grenades to threaten the guests, it’s eerily reminiscent of the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. While Summit Entertainment wisely decided to remove that scene from TV ads, they should have deleted it altogether.

Riffing off a flaccid, derivative script by first-time screenwriter Amanda Brody, floundering first-time feature director Scott Speer makes use of his TV/video background. While it doesn’t approach the sparks previously ignited by Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, there’s some chemistry between Kathryn McCormick, best known as a finalist on the TV series “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Abercrombie & Fitch model Ryan Guzman.

Choreographer Jamal Sims who – with Christopher Scott, Travis Wall and Chuck Maldonado – deserves credit for some inventive, percussive urban dance sequences – one in an art museum and the other in a City Council meeting – which are even more impressive in 3D. But there’s no excuse for such insipid acting – excluding always reliable Peter Gallagher and Adam G. Sevani, who briefly reprises his role as Moose.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Step Up Revolution” is a forgettable, formulaic if fleet-footed 4, with familiar faces popping up in some surprise cameos.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).