The Step Up franchise has become a staple of the summer-movie-dance-off set, and this season is no exception, as Step Up Revolution glides its way between the high-impact action blockbusters that dominate the summer months. Jon M. Chu, who directed the previous two Step Up films, returns as an executive producer, while music-video director Scott Speer makes his feature directorial debut. Unfortunately, the series has somewhat flatlined, as first-time screenwriter Jenny Mayer brings nothing particularly new or interesting to the fourth installment. Many of the old tropes and gimmicks from the previous films are recycled into an all-too-familiar plotline: An edgy, streetwise guy falls for a classy, upper-crust sweetie, and together they dance their way past obstacle after obstacle, ultimately ending up in an epic, movie-ending dancetravaganza.
The film centers on Emily Anderson (Kathryn McCormick), who arrives in Miami with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. However, she soon falls in love with Sean (Ryan Guzman), a working-class guy who leads a dance crew called the Mob, which do performance-art pieces in public spaces. The crew are trying to win a contest for a sponsorship opportunity, and Sean recruits classically trained Emily to join them. But when Emily's father, predatory real-estate developer Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher), threatens to develop the Mob's historic neighborhood and displace thousands of its residents, Emily and Sean must find a way to save their homes.
McCormick made her mark as a contestant in the sixth season of So You Think You Can Dance, and while she's a phenomenal hoofer, her acting leaves much to be desired. For his part, Guzman, a former MMA fighter and model, proves a capable dancer and gives a relatively good performance considering the material. Yet neither has the kind of scene-stealing screen presence that Step Up alum Channing Tatum possesses, which prevents their Romeo-and-Juliet love story from resonating.
The most interesting part of these films is, of course, the dancing, and Revolution doesn't disappoint. The movie boasts some amazing dance sequences choreographed by Travis Wall (also a competitor from So You Think You Can Dance). Step Up Revolution is mainly for those who already love the franchise's electric moves, as it contains some awe-inspiring scenes featuring many of the dancers from the previous installments -- all of whom perform with great skill and charisma.