Making the Grades
Let’s see if you’ve heard this story before: Girl moves to the big city where she hopes to become a dancer. Girl meets cool, muscular street dancing boy who has more moves than Bobby Fischer. Bad man wants to demolish the historic neighborhood where the gang dances and build a big hotel. And, for bonus points, the bad guy is the girl’s father.
Yes, it’s a time worn tale that harkens back to the Hollywood musical era of the 20th Century, but to be fair to Step Up Revolution, those “classic” movies usually had stories that would fit on the back of a cocktail napkins too. What audiences really want to see is dancing—and just like Fred Astaire could appear to defy gravity, the dancers in this film also seem to cast Newton’s law aside. Under the direction of choreographer Jamal Sims, these toned and tanned terpsichoreans exude technical precision that is further enhanced by the process of filming this art form.
Sadly there is one major misstep that sets this movie apart from those grand productions of yesteryear, and that is the need to relate dancing to delinquency. Our “boy”, named Sean (Ryan Guzman), is part of a dance flash mob consisting of members who delight in stopping rush hour traffic or invading a formal restaurant so they may show off their skills. While the surrounding and stunned spectators in this movie appear appreciative of the group’s talents, the dancers are nonetheless breaking laws to satisfy their desire to win a YouTube contest’s cash prize for attracting the most viewers to a viral video.
When the “girl”, Emily (Kathryn McCormick), determines to convince The Mob (their formal name) that they need to dance not just for performance but also for protest, things get a little more serious. With the greedy land developer (Peter Gallagher) in their sights The Mob begins to interfere with procedural matters by pulling fire alarms and setting off vision obscuring gas canisters. These pranks allow them to attract an attentive audience but the script dances around real world consequences for such behavior.
Yet “real world” isn’t even on the radar of this script. Considering the elaborate, customized, classic cars this group drives along with their incredibly elaborate dance routines that sport pricey props and costumes, it’s hard to believe any of these guys are as hard up for money as they imply. Even more curious is why Miami’s finest can’t seem to ever arrive in time to nab this crew, even while their faces appear online to millions of viewers. Crocket and Tubbs would be ashamed…
Families who appreciate dancing may find less objectionable content than they might expect. There are legions of bikini-clad women and shirtless men along with some steamy dance moves, but the majority of the choreography is not sensual. Profanities include infrequent scatological slang and a few other mild and moderate terms while violence—aside from the rebellious theme—is limited to a punch and some verbal scuffles. That could make this movie a possible candidate for teen viewing, but parents should still step carefully.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Step Up Revolution.
The street dancers in this movie flash mob many public places. Do you consider their actions a public disturbance or art? Why do those involved feel breaking the law needs to be part of their freedom of expression?
The characters portrayed as part of The Mob crew are supposed to be from a poor neighborhood. How likely is it that they could afford to do some of the stunts pulled off in this movie? Why have none of them ever tried to use their talent to earn money?
Sean explains his reason for dancing is to give faceless people a voice. Does his dancing really do that? If you weren’t privy to the script, how would you interrupt their street performances? Even when they decide to protest, is their message clearly communicated?
How is education and employment depicted in this movie? Is it possible to have a paying career in the arts? Can passions and responsibilities be balanced? What things should young people consider when planning their futures?