18 September 2014

Step Up All In (2014)

Here we go, the much anticipated fifth Step Up, one that features the return of previous Step Up stars, albeit minus Channing Tatum. Would it really kill Magic Mike to come do a cameo for one of these? Bring along Jenna too! Anyway, this is my second mega-dance review this year, I’m on a roll!

Tagline: “Every step has led to this."

1. Plot (4)
Sean, from 2012’s Step Up Revolution, is now in Los Angeles along with the rest of his crew, The Mob. The money they won has long since evaporated -- it’s a miracle 50k lasted this long divided by at least a dozen people - and it’s a constant deflating series of commercial auditions and unpaid bills. When everyone else decides to return to Miami, Sean decides to stick it out. He soon convinces Moose to help him assemble another crew, the horrifically named LMNTRIX, to compete in The Vortex, which features a grand prize of a three year gig in Vegas. Sure, this movie hits all the same story beats as before, but I appreciated how this was the Step Up where everyone had to grow up. I mean, Moose has a regular job now, and we get a peek into how hard it is to make it as a dancer, even if you’re talented. They could have titled this Step Up: Reality Bites!

2. Can the lead characters dance (5)
During my Step Up Revolution review, I said: “as for Ryan Guzman, he's probably the best male lead dancer of the entire series.” I don’t know what I was thinking because in this one he’s horrible. Okay, that may be overstating it, but I had to check again to see if this was the same person. None of the leads exhibited great dancing actually. Step Up 2’s Briana Evigan is more serviceable than jaw dropping, and Moose’s solo is pretty bad too. I’ll just go ahead and give this category a low grade because Guzman, Evigan, and Adam Sevani were all pretty sub-par.

Sevani has improved over the series, but he's not good in this one. Technically, all three leads can dance, but you wouldn't know it from watching this installment. Bonus: Here is Moose with his film girlfriend, Alyson Stoner, in a tribute to "Thriller."

3. How’re the dance scenes? (3)
In fact, Step Up All In has the worst dance scenes from any of the previous installments. There wasn’t one "wow" segment to be had, excepting maybe the end routines. A new choreographer needs to be hired or something because the dance stuff is getting staid. Enough with the same moves over and over, with a breakdancer here or there. I wish the Step Ups would incorporate more types of dancing, especially house, which is something that is much more current and interesting.

The good thing is that director Trish Sie -- she did the music videos for OK Go -- kept her camera wide and the cuts minimal. Most of the time, dance movies cut so quickly and pull in so close that you can’t really see the dancing. Sie gives us nice clean looks at everything, it’s just unfortunate the routines are no good.

What the dance scenes do have is plenty of impressive sets. Each dance segment is backgrounded by ever more elaborate themes. From a boxing ring, to a mad scientist’s lab, to an impressive stage for the finale. The sets turned out to be the eye candy I focused on, because the dancing was so bad.

4. How’s the love story? (3)
Like you had to ask. Sean and Andie are fated to fall in love from scene one, but their chemistry is pretty non-existent. There’s a bit of Cutting Edge in there, as Sean pushes Andie to do a big move that she doesn’t feel confident in -- her injured knee holds her back -- but that’s not anything to get emotionally invested in. In Andie and Sean’s defense, they do have a cute scene at an amusement park, when they do a flirt duet to “Every Little Step.” Of course, Sean has to tell the audience, "Hey, it's Bobby Brown" since most people watching Step Up probably don't know that. Bonus point for the robot love between Madd Chadd and a popper girl.

5. Rate the sidekicks (6)
The crew is back! The Santiago Twins, Mari Koda with her fake accent, Twitch, Madd Chadd, etc. Alyson Stoner as Moose’s girlfriend also returns, and I was glad to see that they were still together (they still don't let her dance though). None of the other leads are still dating, right?

The newest addition to the cast, Michelle Pfeifer-lookalike Izabella Miko plays Alexxa Brava, the host of The Verge. She channels Effie from Hunger Games, and her outfits were outstanding/outrageous. But more on that later. Overall, it was nice to see familiar faces and to know that these hard working dancers are still getting some of that movie money.

6. Best line (4)
There was an obvious attempt to throw in some zingers. I appreciate that. My favorite was when Sean’s former BFF asks him if LMNTRIX is his new crew. Sean’s answer? “Well, it ain’t my book club!” Hahaha! Okay, not hilarious? Well, it got me. I also enjoyed it when Sean attempted to put down a rival by saying “Nice necklace, you get that at Claire’s?” I just like it when Claire’s is referenced in anything. Extra points.

7. Music (8)
Here we go, a dance movie that actually had some good songs. I’ve already talked about the “Every Little Step” usage, and there was also a bit of Gangsta’s Paradise -- perpetually overused but just a snippet here was welcome. More impressive was the use of Little Dragon (“Twice”), Diplo (“Revolution"), and various Steve Aoki. I even found myself Shazaming during the movie because I wanted to know what the Little Dragon track was for my own playlists.

8. Fashion (10)
Step Up 3 had a serious jones for sneakers, which earned it high marks, but All In tops those scores. Someone in wardrobe figured out that you can just clothe everyone in the latest fast fashion and it works. Let’s start with Moose -- Sevani has been working out, as he looks much buffer -- who still sports an arrays of hoodies but gets to wear Lacoste polos now, and added accessories like a wallet chain. Baby steps here. Maybe for the next film he’ll trim his curls...

Everyone else wore basic but believable outfits that worked well together. Professional dancers want to stay comfortable and that’s exactly how the fashion came across. I even liked all the outfits they competed in, which included simple stripes, tie, and suspenders combo and a varsity jackets look. Their steampunk inspired outfits at the end was fantastic too. The only misstep was that the character named “Hair” had absolutely the worst hair. We should also take some time out to talk about Briana Evigan’s midriff, which was on prominent display. Literally every piece she wore featured her exposed midriff. We get it, you have a nice tummy, put some more clothes on.

All of that gets you high grades, but not a ten. That extra push for perfection was accomplished by Alexxa Brava, who had all sorts of eye popping costumes. Among many things, she came out as a zebra, a Twenties vamp, and finally an Ursula-inspired blue dress that featured armored scales and tentacles. Just wonderful. I want more Alexxa in the Step Up franchise, please make it happen.

9. Cultural Impact (6)
Can you believe Step Up has been chugging along since 2006? I feared that Step Up Revolution signaled the last of the line, but now I’m thinking this just goes on and on forever. If we can have seven Fast and the Furious, why can’t we just keep churning out Step Ups? The domestic gross for All In is just 13.7 million so far -- on a budget that’s probably around thirty five million -- but the worldwide box office is at a healthy 67 million. While both numbers represent a steep drop from previous installments, the Step Up brand is clearly still profitable. While pop culture is oversaturated with dance shows and movies, I think it’s important that we make it to at least a decade of Step Ups. I think it’s time for a serious reboot however. Time to dump these “all stars,” and bring in some fresh blood. Or go Christopher Guest and make a mockumentary, perhaps starring Corky St. Clair?

10. Miscellaneous (2)
This interview with series producer Adam Shankman, "The Enduring Power Of Step Up, Where Every Problem Can Be Solved By A Dance Off," touches on why the Step Up leads have always been white, why there hasn't been any LGBT representation, and why he thinks the movies keep getting made. In answer to that last part: "I think it’s because, above everything else, these movies are a celebration of underdog triumph and dance. And as long as people keep wanting to see dance, we can keep generating these conversations in the world.” Bravo! Also he drops in a "Sturm und Drang” reference I had to look up. Take a look at this article too, "In Defense of the Step Up Movies." Join the movement.

Step Up All In's dancing kind of sucked. The leads were bad, the dance stuff was boring, and well, what else is there? Intriguingly, All In answers that question by giving us superior sets, fashion, and music, to make up for the yawn worthy dance numbers. Overall, a score of 52 still put Step Up All In above my last three reviewed movies (Street Dance 2, Battle of the Year, Step Up Revolution).There’s an easy fix for future Step Ups: Get better choreographers who have some new ideas and then the franchise can rise again.