Emily has always wanted to be a professional dancer. And the pretty twentysomething has obvious skills that she's honed through years of hard work. So when her dad moves temporarily to Miami while working on a big business deal, she tags along to audition for the prestigious Winwood Academy. Getting a dance shoe in that door could make all the difference.
Unfortunately there's one big problem: For all of Emily's polished finesse and flexible grace, she just doesn't have the right spark of originality. And after she squeaks through the first audition process, the academy's director tells her as much.
Sean, on the other hand, is nothing if not original. This local Miami guy is all flash and style—a panache picked up on the street and buffed to a sheen with help from his dance crew, The Mob. He wants to make it big in a totally different way.
By planning out super-cool flash mob dance scenes, he and his crew are aiming to win a YouTube contest. If they can stage and record the most outrageous scene and get to 10 million hits first, they can win a $100,000 prize and finally get noticed for their collective abilities. Of course, at this point they're being outscored by a video of a singing cat.
When Emily and Sean first meet, well, sparks fly. But are they sparks of originality? Will these two beautiful people fall for each other as they dance the night away? And will they help each other reach for their own illusive and seemingly impossible dreams?
Is 3-D an overpriced gimmick?
It's obvious that Sean and Emily are good for each other: He inspires her to think outside the box of her classical training, and she motivates him to use his dance crew to positively impact his community. At one point there are some secrets kept and feelings hurt between Sean, Emily and the members of The Mob … but eventually they all apologize for their misunderstandings.
Emily and her dad have a falling out as well when it's revealed that she has been a part of the effort to undermine his business dealings. Emily apologizes. And it becomes clear that despite their differences when it comes to his business, Emily and her father have long had a loving and pretty communicative relationship.
One of the flash mob dancers points out that it will be a "d‑‑n miracle" if their planned event succeeds.
The movie takes its time gazing at many of Miami's well-toned bodies—both wet and dry—dressed in teeny little swimsuits. And when those random bodies aren't the ogling focus of the camera, it fixates on Emily and Sean. He's sometimes shirtless, and she's regularly dressed in skintight dance togs or the shortest of formfitting dresses paired with stiletto heels.
It won't surprise you, then, that some of the showcased dance choreography, while beautiful, can be rather sensual. And even when it's classical ballet that's being performed, the male/female full-body contact is nothing short of seductive. Some of the flash mob choreography features sexualized moves that deliberately encourage, shall we say, moviegoers to take long looks at lots of wiggling and wriggling breasts, backsides and crotches.
A quickly seen statue appears to be a crouching naked woman painted gold. A guy dressed in a unitard jokingly flexes his backside for the camera. Sean and Emily kiss several times.
Sean punches his best friend, Eddy, in the face when tensions between them rise. And that's pretty much the only "real" physical violence in the movie. The rest of my notations here revolve around the dances:
One routine involves dancers dressed as policemen and gang members. They mime shooting their guns along with the explosive sound effects. Another group of gang member-like dancers stomp and flip with aggressive athleticism while striking the ground with sparking poles. At one point several dancers appear to fall off the top of an elevated storage crate, drawing gasps and exclamations from a surrounding crowd.
More amped up than that, though, is a scene in which a protest-oriented flash mob tosses smoke grenades while wearing gas masks and flak jackets. They step belligerently out of the shadows while the word "REVENGE" flashes on a big screen. It's a scene that unintentionally comes off as an ominous reminder of the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, which happened just one week before this movie premiered. (The moment plucked such a raw nerve with the Denver screening audience I was a part of that the crowd audibly gasped and a few people walked out.)
Crude or Profane Language
One (partially bleeped) f-word and one (unbleeped) s-word. Two or three uses each of "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑ch." "Oh my god" is called out a few times. And "n-gga" is used repeatedly in a rap/dance tune.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Sean's uncle Ricky smokes cigars. Young adults casually sip beer, wine and mixed drinks in beach clubs and/or Ricky's bar. Emily's angry dad is obviously trying to dull his frustration with a glass of booze at one point.
Other Negative Elements
Sean repeats several times that it can be a real positive if you "break the rules." And that's often the modus operandi of The Mob's activities. They regularly bottle up traffic or take over a restaurant, for instance, to stage their on-the-spot dances.
Meanwhile, Emily's dad is buying up waterfront property to build a large hotel complex—actions that are two-dimensionally portrayed as greedy and community destroying. Thus, we're left in a moral quagmire over whether Emily's efforts to undermine her dad's business are heroic or disloyal.
Step Up Revolution is a fairy tale of sorts. It's a happily-ever-after light-footed story that takes place in a colorful slice of Miami: an ethnically mixed waterfront world of eclectic musical rhythms, impossibly gifted dancers, evening water mists and long romantic gazes. It's a make-believe place where muscular flips, caressing dips and undulating hips can bring mankind together and, well, change the world in the process.
Thus, this is definitely not a kid's fairyland. They're not slipping into bed together in this version of a born-to-boogie Never Land. But they're not a bit averse to dropping a little rough language, sipping a beer, ripping off any, um, unnecessary clothing and slipping into sensual dance moves when the mood strikes.
In the end it's pretty clear that this wispy flick really isn't much more than an elongated music video adorned with prominent cleavage, ripped abs and killer choreography—some of which revolves around gas mask-wearing killers. That description isn't necessarily a death sentence, of course. Think of it more as a quiet pause in the middle of a manic musical number, giving you time to clearly think through your next few steps.