While the Step Up franchise looked like it was on its last legs after only two instalments, the re-emergence of 3D gave the things a bit of a kick up the ass, with Step Up 3-D taking $160 million around the world and ensuring it was worth making a part four. Now that new sequel arrives on 3D Blu-ray.
If you’ve seen any of the previous Step Up movies, you’ll know not to expect much from the plot, and indeed this one barely even tries. There are two basic plots for dance films – one is a streetwise poor kid with funky moves falling for a rich girl whose rigid classical dance training needs shaking up, and the other is corporate types trying to bulldoze something, and for some reason only dancing can stop them. Step Up: Miami Heat crashes both those plots together, with rich, ballet dancing Emily meeting and starting to fall for working class Sean, who’s one of the leaders of ‘The Mob’, a group that stages intricately choreographed streetdance flashmobs around Miami.
Emily’s dad is a corporate bigwig type who wants to knock down the deprived neighbourhood Sean and his homeys live in and replace it with something shiny and expensive. Emily thinks she’s got the answer – turn the flashmobs from random performance art into protest pieces.
As we all know, the great issues of our time are always dealt with by deciding who can dance about them best, so this plan turns out to be pretty effective (don’t worry, I am being sarcastic), but will they stop the development, and can Sean and Emily survive the fact she’s rich and he isn’t?
It’s the same plot(s) we’ve seen a thousand times before, and indeed it’s almost as if the studio had a focus group and asked for youth buzzwords and then incorporated them into a script cobbled together from bits of previous movies. It’s one of those films where the character spout modern youth jargon in ways that nobody actually talks – ‘We’ve got to flashmob with lowriders and some parkour so we can get lots of hits on the YouTube’ – in a vain effort to be down with the kids.
However taking pot-shots at the plot seems a little pointless, partly because it’s too easy and partly because the film seems well aware there’s no put them checking the screenplay category on Oscar nomination day. This is all about the dance scenes, and it’s here that the film shines. Indeed there are moments where you wonder why they bothered having a plot at all, as any time that the dancing stops the film sags. Indeed the story sometimes even hinders the dancing, as while the moves are amazing, expecting us to believe the flashmob could pull it all off without anyone catching on or the authorities realising verges on the farcical.
However if you just ignore all that, the mobs and dance sequences are a lot of fun. While the editing is sometimes a little too frenetic, the choreography and skill of the performers shines through, with plenty of inventive ideas and lots of energy. It’s little surprise that first time feature director Scott Speer has a background helming music videos and modern dance pieces. He certainly knows what he’s doing when the beats start up, even if the bits in-between are fairly journeyman.
He also seems to have a decent handle on 3D, which works well even in the home. There are occasional issues with depth, where everyone in the middle background looks like they’re walking around on a flat backdrop, whilst everyone in the foreground is fully dimensional, but again it’s in the plot bits where it’s not brilliant. When the dancing is on, it looks good.
It’s actually becoming a bit of a theme with 3D that the directors who know how to best bring out the extra dimension aren’t those who are particularly good at telling a story (with a few exceptions, such as James Cameron). There really does seem to have been care taken with Step Up 4 to make the most of the 3D, including ensuring the locations used for the dancing add to the sense of depth and space. (It should also be noted you can watch the film in 2D if you want, as both 3D and 2D versions of the film are included on the same disc).
The disc includes a decent selection of special features that unsurprisingly concentrate on the dancing, such as featurettes looking at the choreography and how the dancers come up with their amazing moves. There’s also an option that allows you to jump straight to the dance scenes and a couple of music videos.
Overall Verdict: If you liked the earlier Step Up films or have a penchant for dance movies in general, it should pass the time. However if you demand a decent plot with characters who talk like actual people, then you’re best off looking elsewhere.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac