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Step Up All In




Step Up All In (PG-13)
At the Sofa-Plex

08/14/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



A supergroup of characters you sort of remember from earlier franchise movies gets together for — what else — a dance battle in Step Up All In, a series of dance scenes connected by a very loosely constructed plot.
 
At one point, Moose (Adam Sevani), a character who has been around since the second Step Up, has a fight/conversation with his girlfriend, Camille (Alyson Stoner), who was apparently (unmemorably) around during the very first movie, that is very similar to a conversation they had in the third movie. It is as if the script just had “insert conflict here” and later the director just said “hey, do you remember, more or less, that one scene from that third movie? Do that.”
 
In fact, plenty of the scenes felt like they could have been replaced with a title card that said “characters have conflict” and then we could have moved on to the training montage or next dance number. Sean (Ryan Guzman), the main guy from Step Up Revolution (the fourth and most recent prior Step Up), has conflict with his old dance crew, The Mob, because despite the Nike contract they won at the end of the last movie, they are having a hard time finding work in Los Angeles. The Mob and its only other memorable character, Sean’s buddy Eddy (Misha Gabriel Hamilton), leave town and Sean takes a job as a fix-it guy at a dance studio owned by the grandparents of Moose, who is now an engineer. Though out of the dancing game, Moose agrees to be part of the crew Sean puts together for a competition called “The Vortex,” hosted by a Lady Gaga-like pop star called Alexa Bravva (Izabella Miko). Members of this new crew include the Santiago brothers (Facundo and Martin Lombard) from the third movie; Jenny Kido (Mari Koda), from all movies since the second one, and, filling the love-interest role, Andie (Briana Evigan), who was also in the second movie (which, by the way, was called Step Up 2: The Streets, which might be the most ridiculously-named/best-named of all the Step Ups). There are conflicts between Sean and Andie (naturally), between this crew and The Mob, between this crew and the crew-to-beat crew (whose name I’ve totally forgotten, Bad Guy Crew, possibly, or the Antagonators, maybe), who, but of course, battle and beat Sean in a scene early in the movie. 
 
But these conflicts are almost as irrelevant as every line of dialogue and every other detail in the movie that isn’t specifically about characters dancing. You came for the dance, and on this score the movie delivers. We get a nice mix of highly produced dance numbers with “impromptu” dance-offs and the characters  — all giggle-inspiring degrees of wooden while acting — are like shiny, pop-and-locking fish in water during the dance scenes. 
 
What the Step Up movies have gotten really good at is conveying all we need to know about characters and their relationships through dance. (So much so that, as a review on Vulture.com suggested, the “plot” really just gets in the way.) For example, the big dance numbers at The Vortex perfectly match with who each group is — Sean’s crew’s routine is full of heart but has moments of discord, The Mob is appropriately “street” (they started as a protest to development, you’ll remember) but missing something. The Bad Guy Crew’s dance is showy but shallow. A girl group’s dance is clearly second-string but good enough that we know they’ll show up in the big finale (is this a spoiler? If you care enough about these movies to be this deep in the review, I’m going to guess no). 
 
For some people (me), the Saw horror movie franchise was no less stupid in its seventh movie than it was in its first and I never enjoyed sitting through its gimmicks and repetitive structure or cared about its interchangeable characters. I could see some (not me) leveling the same criticism at the Step Up franchise. But these movies, where the day is saved by a big dance-off, have a lightness and an awesome cheesiness at the center of their goofy hearts that has made it impossible for me not to root for these movies over the years. If you enjoyed even one of the Step Up movies, you’ll like Step Up All In enough to keep this dorky party going.
B-
 
Rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive material. Directed by Trish Sie and written by John Swetnam (from characters by Duane Adler), Step Up All In is an hour and 52 minutes long and distributed by Summit Entertainment. 





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