John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Step Up: All In

Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Misha Gabriel, Izabella Miko, Alyson Stoner, Adam Sevani

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: August 8th, 2014

“Does it always have to end up in a big giant dance battle?” So asks Moose (Adam G. Sevani), sick the goofy but passionate sidekick in Step Up: All In (the fifth entry in this long-running series). In movies like this, the answer to that question is always yes.

When the feature’s protagonist Sean (Ryan Guzman) runs into antagonist Jasper (Stephen Stevo Jones) in a bar, it ends in a dance battle . When Sean recruits and challenges a female dancer named Andie (Briana Evigan), it ends in a dance battle. When Sean puts a team together to compete for a three-year dancing contract, it ends in a dance battle.

Yes, yes, yes. There will be big dance battles.

For those looking for the Step Up series to change its routine, Step Up All In isn’t for you. It knows what it is and embraces that.

Sean returns here from Step Up: Revolution a few months after the Mob, his dancing crew, fulfilled the silly Nike contract earned at the end of the previous movie. If you don’t remember, Revolution ended with the Mob protesting a major construction company’s plans to demolish a neighborhood (fighting “the man” along the way) only to accept a contract from Nike, another major corporation (bizarre, right?). That silly storyline is long gone here and the Mob is faced with a painful choice. Their dreams of fame in Hollywood have faded and the majority of the Mob decides to move back home. Sean won’t quit though and he begrudgingly moves into a tiny living space and agrees to serve as a maintenance man for a local dance studio to make a living.

Fame is sometimes fleeting but Sean wants a sense of permanence to his existence— a sense that after one victory (or one short-term contract), he won’t be bankrupt and lost four months later. That’s why a reality show-like competition he finds on Google appeals to him. The prize is a three-year dancing contract in Las Vegas and if he wins it, he’ll have a place to call home and a steady paycheck for a long while so he decides to form a new dance crew and compete.

Much of the plot is easily predictable with a love story at its center (featuring Sean and Andie) and a side plot involving a romantic mistake between Moose and his long-term girlfriend. None of this is surprising and it’s all very superficial. The most intriguing storyline revolves around Sean and his new dance crew facing off against the Mob, who are led by Sean’s best friend and who ultimately make their way into the same competition that Sean has his eyes on.

The whole story revolves around an intriguing concept of permanence and consequence. Dancing, it shows, is an awesomely fun activity and director Trish Sie highlights that in the well-shot dance sequences but without permanent dancing positions, the characters here have to settle into normal non dance-related jobs. And Andie knows that dancing itself comes with consequences as she’s nervous about a knee injury that flared up in an old crew. There’s a sense of realistic consequence— job-related or injury-related— that makes the story work much better than it should.

That sense isn’t enough to think that this is a good movie— its major plots undermine the intriguing ideas here— but Step Up: All In is a step up from its immediate predecessor and its growth is to be admired. The series, like the characters in it, seems to be maturing and that’s something any person can relate to.

Review by: John Hanlon

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