Step Up: All In (2014)

Step Up All InHaving relocated to Los Angeles with The Mob in order to appear in a Nike commercial, Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel) are struggling to secure steady funding for their dance crew. After their umpteenth rejection, Eddy heads back to Miami with the rest of the dancers, leaving Sean to press on alone. Unable to afford rent, he contacts fellow street artist Moose (Adam Sevani) — now living with girlfriend Camille (Alyson Stoner) and working as an engineer — and arranges to stay at his parent’s dance studio while earning his keep as a janitor. Together they plan to compete in The Vortex, a televised dance competition which is offering a three-year dance contract to one lucky group. Starting with Andie (Briana Evigan), they put together a new crew and head out to Las Vegas for the event, where Sean now finds himself competing against Eddy and The Mob.

Following on from the events of the original trilogy, in which dance crews across America entered a variety of streetdance competitions, and the previous film, Step Up: Miami Heat, which saw The Mob protest a planned redevelopment of the slums in which they lived, Step Up: All In asks what comes next in the life of a dancer? The answer, it seems, is poverty, rejection and dissolution. The fifth instalment revisits characters from across the series, finding Sean cleaning toilets, Andie assisting on photoshoots and Moose recording readouts for an engineering firm; they are variously suffering from heartache, injury and boredom, and each takes little convincing when they are faced with the prospect of dancing once more.

Although undoubtedly formulaic (something this new film doesn’t shy away from, with Moose at one point asking “Does it always have to end up in a big, giant dance battle?”) the series is nowhere near as repetitive as you might expect: characters, setting and theme have changed from one film to the next, with the franchise so far framing dance as a platform for romance, crime, friendship and activism. The main constant throughout the series has been the power, importance and beauty of rhythm, and while each film focused on a slightly different style or genre it is ultimately a celebration of performance in general. For a Hollywood franchise it is unusually celebratory, inclusive and diverse, promoting old-fashioned values such as family, teamwork and loyalty in a cinematic landscape that is increasingly cynical, separatist and bleak. The latest film might satirise celebrity culture and reality television, but it doesn’t need a dystopian future or gladiatorial infanticide to do it.

Step Up: All In is predictable, preposterous and perfunctory, not to mention garish and badly acted, but it is so overwhelmingly positive that you can’t help but forgive the film its flaws. There is an underlying sweetness to it that is incredibly endearing, and beneath the stage personas and endless posturing of its characters there is a real tenderness and warmth. Sevani and Evigan are two of the series’ strongest assets, both in terms of dance and dramatic arts, and they are redeployed and further developed here to great effect; but it is not just former glories that director Trish Sie welcomes to the stage. The Step Up franchise has always been a showcase for fresh talent, most famously launching the career of Channing Tatum, and it continues to do so indiscriminately. The showstopping dance numbers are more elaborate than ever (the final showdown is likely to be remembered as one of the best set pieces of the year) but the smaller moments are just as impressive, whether it’s children cutting shapes on the dancefloor, lovers courting on an abandoned carnival ride or Moose’s parents sharing a dance in their living room.

Whether this is the final instalment or merely the end of Phase One of the Step Up saga, Step Up: All In is a perfect precis of everything that makes the series great. You may cringe at the jokes, be unconvinced by the drama and see everything coming a mile off, but the moment the music starts and the characters take to the stage you can’t help but enjoy the show regardless. Everyone’s welcome.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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