Good dance films assimilate their sense of movement within the feature’s thematic context; great dance films do the same whilst establishing an engrossing narrative and intriguing characters. The more average specimens of the genre simply rely upon dance sequences to provide a point of interest; worse still attempt a similar feat whilst failing to craft a story. The latest in the four-strong Step Up series may fall into the latter category, however it does so with style. Although Step Up: Miami Heat’s moves prove absurd outside of the dance floor, the ingenuity of its choreography can’t be denied.
Retaining the franchise’s formula, a new pair of protagonists parade and party in Scott Speer’s film, motivated by fame, fortune, love and loyalty. At first, dance crew leader Sean’s (newcomer Ryan Guzman) sole interest is seeking success through stunts broadcast on YouTube; real estate empire heiress Emily (Kathryn McCormick, Fame) covets a spot with a prestigious dance company. Their paths cross at her father’s (Peter Gallagher, Burlesque) hotel, where Sean works as a waiter. A hot-stepping encounter keeps both wanting more, however when their combined forces are threatened by the march of progress, their priorities change.
The standalone nature of the story is far from the only familiar aspect, predicated as it is upon the triumphant power of dance as an art form; nor is the feature’s existence as padding for the dance numbers. Each cheesy contrivance and clichéd line of dialogue has been seen before, and the cast is so interchangeable that some aren’t afforded names for their characters. Yet, as is evident in every other less than stellar example of the genre – fellow street dance offerings Save the Last Dance, Honey, Stomp the Yard and You Got Served included – the inanity of these elements is almost expected. Instead, audiences flock to such films for their spectacular dance sequences, an area in which Step Up: Miami Heat certainly delivers.
Screenwriting debutant Amanda Brody’s script may lack cohesion, and directing novice Speer’s handling of much of the movie may feel as stiff and stilted as his actor’s portrayals, however the imaginatively conceived, energetically executed flights of fleet-footed fancy are nothing short of impressive. The silly premise that calls for the performers to stage elaborate flash mobs in unlikely places within their culturally-specific setting (traffic jams, art galleries and business meetings among them) is redeemed ever so slightly in the show-stopping scenes, with each playing as ambitious music videos. Though such segments can’t overcome an otherwise mediocre effort even by the series’ standard, they do provide bursts of entertainment. Step Up: Miami Heat is not a great dance film, but it does offer great dance sequences, even if all else is instantly forgettable.
Step Up: Miami Heat was released in Australia on August 2nd.
Director: Scott Speer
Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Peter Gallagher