Step Up is a real wild ride of a franchise that starts off with a simple, incompetent teen dance movie and transforms into this almost mock-action franchise. In the later installments, there’s so many elaborate dance sequences that are happening so fast and so in your face, you’d think you were watching The Raid. If I’m drawing comparisons to other franchises, Step Up is much more like The Fast and the Furious than any of the Bring It Ons or High School Musicals. It excels the crazier and more nonsensical the material gets and yet, when it’s boiled down to a conventional teen romance, it completely implodes on itself.
My relationship with this film series was initially pretty hostile. This was a huge movie for the girls I went to high school with (100% because of that yummy-yum-yum Channing Tatummm) and I felt like I could never live up to those impossible body standards. I’m a chunk, not a hunk, and while I can dance, I’m really tired after and simply don’t have the energy to seamlessly transition into a romantic conversation with my partner.
These movies are bad, let’s get that right. They’re poorly written, poorly acted, illogical in their plotting and character reasoning, and yet, when those young, dumb idiots start gyrating them hips, all is forgiven and I’m pumped for an elaborate dance sequence. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series as much as I did, I certainly didn’t expect to like their makeshift franchise hero, Moose, as much as I did either. I honestly had a blast running this franchise, and so did my writing partner.
Joining me for the fourth Franchise with Me is writer, comedian, Twitter star and authority on all things birds, Audrey Farnsworth. As we dive into all six of these films, the text in BLUE will represent my commentary, while the text in RED will represent Audrey’s. Let’s rock!
directed by: Anne Fletcher ; screenplay by: Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg
starring: Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Rachel Griffiths, Deirdre Lovejoy, Mario, Drew Sidoraa, Damaine Radcliff, De’Shawn Washington
runtime: 104 minutes
release date: August 11, 2006
other TEEN movies released this year: She’s the Man, Stick It, Accepted, ATL, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, When a Stranger Calls, See No Evil, The Cheetah Girls 2.
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Farnsworth
Step Up begins with the introduction of two separate worlds – the glamorous world of academic dance and the seedy underbelly of street dance. Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan) is a hardworking dance student at some artsy-fartsy Maryland dance academy. Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) is a street hooligan who wows people in bars with his supreme dance skills but lets himself and his God down by destroying private property. When Tyler and his buddies break into Jenna’s dance academy and vandalize the place, the police arrive and Tyler is arrested. His sentence? Being a janitor for the dance school.
What ensues is basically a Good Will Hunting rip-off where this hot janitor ends up being a an idiot savant but for dancing. Noticing both skill and potential boyfriend material, Nora requests Tyler replace her partner who injured himself or something? Anyway, the Dean of the school, played by Six Feet Under‘s Rachel Griffiths, agrees mostly because she wants to fuck Tyler, hardcore. Seriously, every scene she has with Tyler, she’s looking at his body like I look at a bucket of Wendy’s. She says she wants her husband (another dance person? instructor?) to meet Tyler, but I think it’s so they can have one of those cuckhold threesomes that I personally know nothing about.
Step Up fails because it doesn’t deliver enough impressive dance sequences, which seems to be the main selling point of the film. It takes a tired, lovers-on-opposite-sides-of-the-track plot and plays every cliche to 11. They even add in a completely unnecessary and depressing Boyz in the Hood-inspired supporting character death scene, that they end up completely abandoning at the end. Basically, Tyler’s best friend’s little brother wants to show what a big bad gangster he is and ends up getting killed when he steals the car of a local kingpin. Tyler is spending so much time at his dance school with his new pseudo girlfriend, he doesn’t have time to be there emotionally for his grieving best friend. Finally after two weeks or so, he goes to see his best friend to offer condolences but ends the conversation by guilting him into coming to his dance show that night. What a way to promote your shit. I can only imagine what would happen if I was coercing a grieving friend to see my improv show. I’d stop being friends with myself. What a catastrophe!
Much like the first The Fast and the Furious movie, the first Step Up had no idea it was destined to be a franchise and it shows. Even beyond that, it had no idea what people wanted to see going into these movies. The people want action, whether it be from muscle cars slamming into each other at breakneck speeds or from young hot bodies gyrating all over the dance floor. In order for these movies to work, there needs to be an abundance of action and the promise you will not have to activate your brain at any point during the proceedings. Step Up is a massive failure because while it delivers ten-fold on the stupidity, it doesn’t deliver on them gyrating bodies. Audrey, what did you think?
Michael, frankly, for a movie that starts out with a judge smacking his little gavel and making a guy be a janitor at a dance high school, it was startling how bored this movie made me! The only story I cared about was the one happening behind the scenes because the two main characters ended up GETTING MARRIED IN REAL LIFE, baby! Now THERE’S some jazz! I found myself wondering, when was it, do you think, that they began stepping up to romance? Was it when she looked at him from VERY far away out of a school building window as he danced by and on a car outside? Or maybe they realized they would have a marriage together one day when they danced together romantically in the scene at the “club” as her BFF sang onstage?
Also, hang on, can we talk about that “club” for a moment, please? What…the fuck was that place? I barely paid attention to anything actually happening in the movie because I was trying to figure out what this fucking location even was. Was it a dance, at school? Was it a club specifically for high schoolers that HIRED high schoolers as the performers? People were drinking, but I didn’t see a bar? The walls were blankets? Where am I? Where was the bathroom? Was there more than one bathroom? What was the zip code? What are the first and last names of every single person in the room? Give me more, movie!
I was already very tired when we got to the point where the little brother dies, so when that happened, I was done. Nobody needs this right now. I was already not having a lot of fun during this dance movie and now somebody’s little brother is dead? I needed more dancing, not any murder whatsoever. Come on, man. Like, now I am full on depressed. I’ve already been watching Step Up for an hour—this is a bonk on the head I do NOT need. Wait a second…is this…a drama? Oh my god, I just realized that this is a drama movie. THIS IS A SERIOUS MOVIE. It’s a serious dance movie! Okay! Fine! That’s fine to do that! But something went wrong because I only JUST realized this, and you know what, that is NOT on me.
At the end of the movie, the principal who, yes, full on has the hots for Channing Tatum and does not disguise this at all whatsoever, introduces him as a “transfer” student. What?? No he is NOT! That is not how transfers go! What if this recruiter asks to see, I don’t know, some transcripts? Or literally any document saying he went to any other school? Just say he’s a new student! You fucked up! You made this more complicated than it had to be! Sigh. How many more of these movies are there? 56? Good. I deserve this. Let’s go.
Step Up 2 the Streets
directed by: Jon M. Chu ; screenplay by: Toni Ann Johnson, Karen Barna
starring: Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman, Will Kemp, Cassie Ventura, Adam G. Servani, Channing Tatum, Sonja Sohn, Christopher Scott, Harry Shum, Jr., Janelle Cambridge, LaJon Dantzler, Luis Rosado, Mari Kado, Black Thomas, Telisha Shaw, Danielle Polanco
runtime: 98 minutes
release date: February 14, 2008 (VALENTINE’S DAY!)
other TEEN movies released this year: Twilight, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Sex Drive, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, The Wackness, Never Back Down
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Farnsworth
The movie opens with a flash mob dance on the subway that begins with the dancers throwing shit at people (no) then assaulting a lady, which HOLY SHIT oh wait just kidding, she’s a dancer too, it’s a staged assault so no biggie. Eesh. I mean, if I was on that train and saw that happening I think my heart would’ve kicked itself out of my chest and ran away with a suitcase as thoughts rushed through my head about how to fucking help this woman but, never mind, don’t worry about it, it’s Just Dance™ and this is Step Up 2, baby! Fuck me, I’m already stressed.
So, Andie—our leading lady—is getting sent away to Texas by her caregiver, Sarah, because it’s safer and has no dance. But then Channing Tatum comes in for a sec and is like, “Hey you should go to the dance school I went to, it helped me” and Andie’s like “Ugh I hate school” but then they convince Sarah to let Andie try out for the dance school. The guys judging the audition are Dr. Collins, the director of the school, and his brother, Chase, the most popular dancer at the school. Dr. Collins loves ballet and thinks it’s The One True Type Of Dance. Chase, who is wearing a hat, thinks that ballet sucks ass and only likes cool dancing, so when Andie walks and dances cool WHILE ALSO wearing a hat, he watches her and it’s love at first hat.
Andie gets in and becomes BFFs with Moose—the true hero of this franchise—who explains to Andie who’s cool at school and then Chase shows up and is like “What’s up Andie, remember when we were both wearing hats?” and Moose freaks out and is like “OMG HE’S THE MOST POPULAR BOY IN DANCE CITY.” Then Andie is sentenced to dance detention because Dr. Collins hates
himself her, which means she’s late to her dance crew rehearsals and the lead crew guy is SO FUCKING MAD and throws her out and she and Chase start their own ragtag crew. Andie’s first crew fucking CLOWNS on them at the club, and the new ragtag group feels so embarrassed! But then they do this “thing” that “dance crews do” where they “prank” the “better” dance crew and put like a bunch of onions in their house (breaking and entering!) and like also follow behind them in funny costumes on the streets and film all of this? It’s all very illegal but very entertaining! I am having a very nice time at this point!
Then a bummer happens: The first dance crew vandalizes the dance school and instead of being a regular human about it, Dr. Collins is like “THIS IS LITERALLY THE STREETS’ FAULT. IT’S STREET DANCING’S FAULT. NO ONE CAN DO IT” then kicks Andie out of school. The crew is done and dancing is over forever until it’s suddenly the night of the big school fundraiser and the crew is like “fuck it” and they leave it to go get Andie and are like “we’re a family, let’s go compete in the streets!” And they do! Mr. Collins is like “Hm, where r they going??” and finds out that they’re going to the STREETS (!!) and he goes there too…to…get them? I guess?
A lot of things happens at the streets, but mostly, it rains and Andie gives a speech about how everyone can be at the streets if they love dance and everyone’s like “yeah!” and Mr Collins sees all the street dancing and his life flashes before his eyes and he realizes that it IS dance and everyone dances in the pouring rain and it’s very fun and cool even when they’re dancing to Nickelback. Mr. Collins’ heart grows three sizes and lets Andie back into school.
THIS MOVIE IS FUN and I liked it and I don’t think that’s weird, actually! The ending dance scene is very long. Michael, what did you think?
I forgot how much this movie loves hats, so thank you for reminding me. I also forgot how off-base this movie’s representation of dance instructors are. The fact one from the Maryland Dance Conservatory would not accept modern dance as a valid art form is ridiculous. It’s like a disgruntled boomer wrote this and was like “I’m sick of this synthesizer dance crap! You know, people are saying (me in my own head) they interviewed 30 dance professionals, and 29 of them said the classic Nutcracker ballet I see on the PBS at Christmas is the only valid form of dance!” It just makes no sense and it’s so obvious to me it’s coming from a fundamental misunderstanding of dance. Anyway, it creates a Dean Wormer from Animal House type of antagonist that threatens to destroy the fun at every turn, which gives a movie about street dancers about the stakes you’d expect.
And speaking of expectations, Step Up 2 the Streets is such a vast improvement over the original, it completely re-calibrated my expectations for the rest of the series. This has actual, frenetic energy and while the characters and plot mechanics are just as stupid as the original, this has a looser and lighter feel. The dance sequences are ten fold better, with a rain dance finale that ranks among the most impressive of the series. The leading girl is one of my favorites of the series, even if the leading dude is an uncharismatic, self-absorbed asshole (very common for the males of this franchise). Channing Tatum shows up for five minutes and is more charismatic than anyone on screen, and last but certainly not least, Step Up 2 the Streets marks the introduction of the single greatest character of the franchise – Moose. You’re right Audrey, he’s the fucking best. What a mensch. Even though he’s eating a hot dog in the most disgusting way imaginable when he’s introduced. It’s just weird.
And speaking of weird, there’s this random 7ft skinny nerd that slowly dumps his coca-cola out in a trashcan while Moose is performing cunnilingus on a frankfurter. They never reveal why he does it and they never re-visit his character, he’s just there and fucking weird. That alone deserves random 7ft skinny nerd the praise of an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
And speaking of praise, I want to rain some down on this movie for for introducing a prevalent theme in the following two sequels, the only worthwhile dance is dance you can go to jail for. These kids are fucking bananas, yo.
Step Up 3D Plot Predictions:
In this mini-section, we predict what the next one will be about…
AUDREY: The next Step Up installment will follow the director of the school from this film, who, up until this point, has spent his entire life thinking there was only one kind of dance (the classical ballet dance that he does his school for). At the end of Step Up 2, he watches our main girl do her sick moves in the rain, and we see his mind expand, blossoming like a flower in the springtime — he gets it now. He gets that this is dance, too. The beginning of Step Up 3 will show him experiencing a complete mental breakdown, in which he questions his entire life, hearing his statement of “She’s JUST a street dancer” from the beginning of SU2 over and over as he attempts to breakdance, while crying, in his own bathroom, but he can’t — it’s too small in there, just like it’s been too small in his MIND for YEARS. It’s complete mental breakdance. He decides to go back to dance high school, as a 40 year old man, to learn street dancing, because in the Step Up Universe, there is no math or whatever— only dance.
MARG: So, remember that 7ft skinny nerd that slowly dumped that soda into the trash? I feel like the next Step Up installment is going to follow him. Now what we’re going to learn is he’s actually emptying the soda to create this innovative, analog sound machine using aluminum and other, heavier metals, that a new sexy batch of teens dance to and end up winning a Streets competition with. He’s basically like the MacGyver of music composition, and the movie ends with him meeting and going on a Chili’s date with a 3ft fat nerd that creates innovative, analog sound machines using her discarded candy bar wrappers.
Step Up 3D
directed by: Jon M. Chu ; screenplay by: Amy Andelson, Emily Meyer
starring: Rich Malambri, Adam G. Servani, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner, Keith Stallworth, Other People.
runtime: 107 minutes
release date: August 6, 2010
other TEEN movies released this year: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Easy A, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, The Last Song, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Never Let Me Go, A Nightmare on Elm Street Remake, My Soul to Take, Submarine.
BLUE = MARGETIS ; RED = FARNSWORTH
The ultimate Step Up experience as far as I’m concerned, successfully marrying dumb plot mechanics and magnetic dance sequences in a way that doesn’t feel so shoehorned, and finally giving us a male lead character in Moose who isn’t a total fucking, self-absorbed, insecure, chauvinist douche fart. Even beyond that, Moose is the best character of the franchise, male or female, because he doesn’t look like he just pas de bourre’d off a GQ cover. He’s a regular joe, a very lanky nerdy Joe who isn’t pre-occupied with asserting his abilities and superiority over the people around him.
The exact opposite can be said of his traditionally chiseled co-lead, Luke, a failed NYU documentary filmmaker turned dancer who is trying to put together a documentary about struggling dancers titled, I shit you not, “Born From a Boombox.” “Born From a Boombox” is a real piece of shit that could have been made in any film school. It chronicles “the artist’s struggle” in the most trite ways imaginable and serves as a sexual homing beacon for one of the least interesting and most basic female leads of the franchise, Natalie. She’s a lot less likeable than Moose’s romantic interest, Camille, who starts off thoroughly pleasant but becomes an insufferably passive-aggressive vegetarian in Step Up 5. Natalie and Moose join Luke’s existing dance crew/social club/cramped New York living space, The House of Pirates, to take on the cocky villain, Kid Darkness (champion of the The House of Samurai), in a big club dance contest.
Much like Fast Five did for the Fast & Furious franchise, Step Up 3D amps up the stupid to 11, and the franchise is better for it. These movies don’t work if there’s a single shred of shame attached to them, and Step Up 3D is one of the most shameless movies I’ve ever seen. The plot is terrible, but it is stuffed with so many memorable dance sequences I almost forgive it. The opening with Moose and Kathy Najimy, where Moose is dancing with balloons and bubbles in Central Park is oddly endearing, as is his I Won’t Dance Frank Sinatra sidewalk dance with Camille. The ending dance contest isn’t quite as astonishing as the ending rain dance in Step Up 2 the Streets and the masquerade ball sequence is undeniably terrible, but Moose’s bathroom assault by Kid Darkness and his cronies is one of the most jaw-dropping, flat-out !THRILLING! sequences in the entire franchise.
My biggest gripe with Step Up 3D, besides it being generally stupid and awful, is at 107 minutes long, there is simply too much dancing! There’s too many gyrating hips and backflips and robots for the human brain to comprehend in such a short period of time. While those first 75 minutes or so have you truly exhilarated, the remaining 30 have a numbing, sluggish effect. While you’re genuinely interested to see how things turn out for Moose and Camille at the end, you couldn’t give less of a shit about Boombox Tarantino (the single most insufferable character in the franchise) and Natalie. Audrey, you didn’t like this one as much as me I remember. What’s your beef, girl?
Michael, I have a lot of pent up beef with this movie. While I agree with you that Moose is 100% the most likable Step Up character and ALSO AGREE that the dancing is legitimately fun and good, there were a few things (and one person) that annoyed me so fucking much right off the bat (during the first 20 minutes!) that I was simply too annoyed to care about anything else that followed.
The first thing is, of course, “Born From a Boombox.” And not even the film itself—just the fucking title: “Born from a Boombox”. No! No. No, no, NO, NO LOL HAHAHAHA STOP IT. PLEASE, IT’S TOO FUNNY. Which is great! But the way Luke says it—extremely fucking seriously, like it’s NOT the funniest thing in the world—is so annoying that an alarm goes off in my head and I’m immediately I’m like, “Oh, god, this fuckin’ guy.” I can already tell that Luke and I are going to have MAJOR ISSUES.
The second immediate thing is the dance building (“The Vault”) that everyone lived in together where, and I quote, “Around here, dance is your identity.” So, okay, everyone lives in a dance tower and their whole world is dance and no one pays rent. Sorry to be a little narc blowing into a reality trumpet, but that shit just doesn’t happen! Yes, I realize that this is a Step Up movie and I’m “not supposed to be thinking about it realistically” but, what?? No. That’s ridiculous. Apparently, these guys didn’t pay rent for five months and didn’t get kicked out? THAT SIMPLY WOULD NOT HAPPEN. “We’re not going to lose The Vault,” Luke says, after FIVE FUCKING MONTHS OF NOT PAYING RENT. I’m not thinking about the plot! I’m thinking about how these guys are living in A DANCE FANTASY IN LITERALLY ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES IN THE COUNTRY!!!!
Then Luke and Moose go literally downstairs where there’s a club (?) and meet the hottest dancer woman on the whole planet and Luke takes his large camera out and starts FILMING her without consent! Man, what are you doing! You can’t fucking do that! Like, that is extremely fucked up. I mean, after a bit, she comes up and starts flirting with the camera kind, so “I guess it’s fine” (??) but, sorry, no it’s not, you can’t just film people you don’t know! I’m not surprised you flunked out of film school, dude! You seem pretty fucking entitled at this point while at the same time not being very good at knowing how to do anything!
The last straw for me, at probably 25 minutes in, was when Luke bullies Moose into leaving his college class mid-class to go rehearse with them. Bitch, leave him alone! “Figure something out,” he snarls when Moose says he can’t come to more rehearsals because he’s got class. Fuck you, Luke! You know what kind of adult person rudely peer pressures another adult person literally fucking at all, ever, in any situation? A loser! I’m sorry! No, actually! I’m not!
Anyhoozle, I guess I simply disliked Luke too much to care about any fun aspect to this movie—and there was a lot of fun shit. The dancing was really great but I was too busy screaming, “JUST LET MOOSE GO TO COLLEGE” and ripping a throw pillow in half.
Step Up 4: Revolution
directed by: Scott Speer ; screenplay by: Amanda Brody
starring: I honestly don’t care anymore but hey, Moose is in it again apparently
runtime: Too Long
release date: 2012 sometime
other TEEN movies released this year: The last Twilight movie and other stuff. The Master was released this year, but I wouldn’t consider that a teen movie.
BLUE = MARGETIS ; RED = FARNSWORTH
I fucking loved this movie. I loved it! I bought it. I’m so excited to tell you about it right now!
The movie begins in the beautiful and oh-so-quiet streets of…Miami Beach. “There’s a 50/50 chance we’re going to jail tonight,” someone in a car says to his friend, followed by giving some sort of “signal” and honking his car horn several times. What? What are they going to do?? What could possibly be about to happen here??? Beep beep, bitch, it’s dance time. Everyone hops out of their cars and starts dancing ON the cars! Even the cars are dancing! Everyone is wearing neon because we’re in Miami now! I am having the time of my life and we are three fucking minutes in! The dancers leave a calling card at the end of their dance—we learn that they are “The Mob” and this is a movie about them.
We’re now in the kitchen at a Miami Beach hotel restaurant. Three of the dudes who were just dancing are now at work getting ready for their shifts when some OTHER server comes in and goes “You guys better fucking hurry up and be good servers because the new manager is out there right now and he’s straight up killing people if they work at this restaurant bad.” They’re like “oh okay” but then see themselves on TV because the news is reporting how cool their dance was. They watch for three fucking seconds and THE NEW MANAGER comes in SCREAMING “Where are my servers?? A TABLE HAS BEEN WAITING FOR 10 MINUTES” and one of the servers is like “Oh hey sorry what’s up I’m Sean, the main guy of this movie” and the manager goes “No one waits at MY restaurant!” and Sean goes in for a handshake to which this fucking manager is like “I’m your boss and if you ever make anyone wait for even one minute ever again, you’re fired.” Wow! This restaurant is as important as a hospital!
After their shift, the dudes go upstairs to the beach club part of the hotel restaurant despite a sign saying NO EMPLOYEES IN BEACH CLUB (geez). The bad boyz tear down the sign and go up anyways, and this is where Sean meets Emily, who had been trying to get a drink at the bar but couldn’t get the attention of the bartender, who was busy flirting with another lady, so she goes behind the bar herself and makes herself a drink (badass alert). She and Sean do a little flirting and then move the flirting to the dance floor where they do a sexy dance where sand is used as a prop. These people are just throwing sand around and rubbing it all over their bodies! It’s really fucking weird and hot and they fall in love.
Okay, now we’re in a beloved dive jazz bar where nobody pays for drinks and everybody’s friends. The Mob dancers watch their dance video on YouTube, it has so many views! They have become very popular on YouTube. At home, Sean’s sister is like “You were on the news today and this dancing is going to get you arrested” which becomes a running theme throughout the movie. In this world, dancing is a crime, and The Mob doing their dances is felony and one day police are going to come and put them all in prison.
Meanwhile, Badass Emily has a buzzkill business dad who owns a bunch of hotels and wants her to help him manage them and give up dancing forever, because as we have learned in all of the other movies, dancing is NOT for serious people. He’s literally like “you have three months to become a famous dancer or you have to quit and be a manager like me.” So she goes to rehearse, because, wow, better get started on THAT ask, and Sean walks in and is like “Come to a museum tonight” and she’s like “K” but first she’s gotta go to a super pretentious dance audition where the awful lady in charge chooses her for the part but also hates her AND her “unoriginal” dancing, so, like, why did u choose her, hm?
That night, Emily goes to the museum where The Mob does their next dance/crime, and after, the news is like “A GROUP OF DANCERS DID A GORGEOUS DANCE AT A MUSEUM AND IT WAS DISGUSTING.” Emily wants to join The Mob, but Sean is like, “No, it’s too dangerous. You’ll go to jail if you join. You will actually die if you join this dance team” but she convinces him, saying that it’s exactly what she needs to become more original for her pretentious dance mommy.
Here is the rest of the movie: Emily’s asshole dad plans to demolish the jazz bar and put a big hotel there. Everyone’s sad but Emily has a plan—they’ll do a protest video and show the world what an asshole her dad is! And it works! YouTube loves it! Fuck her dad! Except, uh oh, The Mob finds out about them being dad and daughter and decides they hate her, and pull some really abusive shit by exposing her dad betrayal TO her dad via another flash mob. What the fuck is going on? She was on your side! This sucks! Anyways, Emily quits dancing and Sean is mad and The Mob is assholes, and Emily’s dad wins. That is until the very end when The Mob joins forces with approximately one hundred thousand other dancers and they all do a big, hilarious performance on top of a junkyard (?) and Emily tells her dad “I’m not going to be a manager after all, I choose dance! Now watch me dance-fuck my boyfriend!” And then I guess everyone gets jobs at Nike?
Best Step Up for me. Absolutely bonkers. Michael, tell me your thoughts.
Audrey, I have to disagree with you on the beach sequence. The “sand dancing” meet cute is not adorable or perfect at all. It’s horrifying and annoying. Imagine minding your own business on Miami Beach, eating a hot dog Moose-style or whatever, and these two carefree, hot teenagers come along and chuck sand in your eye. Here you are, just a hardworking stiff, saved up enough to have a nice quiet vacation alone on the beach and these privileged young turds scratch your fucking retina, sending you to the E.R. and causing you to wear an eye bandage for the rest of your trip. There goes that scuba diving tour you booked the next day! Good thing you spent an entire weekend getting Scuba certified! Hey, at least there’s great scuba destinations back home in Phoenix. Fuck!
Maybe I’m taking this movie too personally, because you know, I do agree with you that it is jam-packed with explosively entertaining dance sequences and what is hands down, the franchise’s single best dance finale. However, the plot is easily the most heavy-handed and obnoxious of the entire series. An actual line of dialogue spoken by the protagonist is “It’s not okay to make art for fun anymore!” First of all, yes it is. Second of all, who the fuck are you, kid? Marina Abramovic in a fedora? This movie crawls so far up its own ass putting street dancing on a pedestal next to something like Banksy, it’s absurd. It would be one thing if the dances were actually about something, but none of the choreography has any kind of political or societal message engrained in it, other than I’m in a business suit doing a dead drop so I represent the fall of capitalism?
It’s also ridiculous to suggest that their “stepping up” will change the hearts and minds of gluttonous land developers and hotel billionaires so they don’t bulldoze over a cultural section of Miami to build a new resort. These people would never let all that potential revenue disappear because a couple of dudes can do backflips into pada bu raes on a shipping crate. In this world, even the greediest of hearts melt for Party Rock Remixes.
The characters in this one are universally unlikeable, with The O.C.’s Peter Gallagher deploying his trademark slime to the hotel dad. Moose is sidelined in favor of a male lead who is, like the last two male leads, boring, selfish and infantile, as well as a relatively flat leading lady. The main dude’s sidekick and second in command for the dance crew is the worst of the bunch though, insecure, vengeful and constantly going about in pity for himself. It doesn’t help matters he’s a dead ringer for Mark Zuckerberg.
The dance sequences in this one aren’t as consistently impressive as Step Up 3D, but that opening and finale were something else. I’ve never seen Ski School but I think the plot of this movie is just that but substituting skiing for dancing. Bottom line, they needed more Moose and given the size of his part in the next installment, I think they realized that.
Step Up 5: All In
directed by: ???????????? ; screenplay by: most def a goat
starring: Young hot bodies, Moose, old people to remind us adults exist
runtime: Almost 2 fucking hours
release date: August 8, 2014
other TEEN movies released this year: Boyhood, The Judge
BLUE = MARGETIS ; RED = FARNSWORTH
Step Up is back for its fifth and final U.S. franchise entry, and already something is off. The opening is dull and underwhelming, a far cry from that Central Park balloon/bubble dance in Step Up 3D or cars literally dancing in the streets in Step Up 4: Revolution. Step Up 5 is set in heart of the Hollywood meat grinder, so the opening we get is a tired and lethargic montage of background dancers having awkward open casting calls. The casting agents are predictably demanding and contradictory – “Do it bigger! No, less! No, more! Somewhere that’s in between, but less or more than in between that’s less than more!” This type of scene has been so many times and so much better in countless other films about struggling artists in La La Land (La La Land especially), so it’s kind of frustrating Step Up 5 didn’t stick to what it knows best by opening with an outrageous dance sequence.
From there, the “plot” takes off with the main hunky guy from Step Up 4 and his best friend, Mark Zuckerberg, struggling in Hollywood to become professional dancers. They’re out of money, they’re out of hope and Zuckfuck suggests they just pack it in and move back to Florida. The main hunky dude refuses because you don’t give up on dreams. Luckily for him, Moose’s grandparents own a dance studio and have an empty broom closet for him to live in, in exchange for him helping out around the dance studio. That’s when he sees an invite for a big YouTube sponsored dance contest in Las Vegas and enlists Moose to help him put together a team. Their crew includes the two Argentinian brothers from the last movie, the Asian woman from the last movie and the female lead from Step Up 2 the Streets. They even let this strange pervert dance instructor join, who teaches old people and children how to dance because “chicks dig it.“? Was this their attempt at a comic relief character?
From there, you can probably guess the rest of the plot. They go to the dance competition in Vegas, hosted by a Hunger Games Elizabeth Banks ripoff character, face a team of villains led by a little fuck boi named Jasper (who looks, honest to GOD!!, like the personification of pre-cum) and even face off against their old dance squad led by an emotionally wounded Mark Zuckerberg. They think they’re going to win but, in easily the stupidest sequence of the entire franchise, the main hunky dude overhears Hunger Games Lady and Mr. Pre-cum hatching a plot about rigging the dance competition IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HOTEL LOBBY. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING LOBBY! If you’re hatching a top secret plan to rig a dance competition, you would do it behind closed doors, right?! And not in the lobby of the hotel where literally HUNDREDS of your contestants are staying.
This installment has the honor of being even duller than the original, without the always lovable Channing Tatum to brighten things up. There are several scenes of low energy dancing, bad acting, worse dialogue and practically non-existent stakes. The message of this one is that anyone can dance, so the protagonists just let literally everyone from the losing groups on their team at the end, and it makes no sense, and it’s so obviously against the rules! It’s like they’re setting up the villains to be justified in rigging a dance competition!
“Everyone Can Dance :)” is a terrible message for children to hear, because they will start trying to dance, and we will have to watch them try to dance! Step Up 5: All In lacks the fun, lightness and frenetic energy of the previous three installments, and above all else, the message is dangerous for sane people who want to live in a society where everyone isn’t constantly trying to dance.
Audrey, what did you think? This one made me really hate dancing.
Yep! 100% hate dancing now. THAT SAID, the fact that this movie did not open up with the classic Step Up huge dance scene ruined my whole life and also the movie IMMEDIATELY. I have learned to expect, at this point, that at the beginning of a Step Up experience, there is huge dance scene. And the last one, Step Up 4, was the most fun one yet! It started off with a whole town dancing on cars in the street!*I* need to *also* be dancing at the beginning of Step Up movies, because only then I am ready to watch OTHER PEOPLE dance. It makes me more accepting towards dance, you see. It makes me feel like I am a part of it, and therefore can relate to everyone because now dance is my passion, as well. Anyways, yeah, wow, what a total bummer of a beginning.
Okay, so 40 dancers leave Los Angeles all at once, and then the Main Guy who sleeps in a closet puts together a new team that I think should be called “2 Many American Apparel Hoodies + 1 Pervert” but is actually called “LMNTRIX,” which, sorry, mine’s better, and although this is definitely the weirdest “team” put together in a Step Up movie yet, even weirder is that the Miami dance team gets all mad that Main Guy didn’t call them to be his dance team for Vegas Show. Why the fuck are you guys so mad about this? Like, you LEFT. You all were like, “We hate Los Angeles and we’re all—all 40 of us—leaving. Today.” You guys said that to him at the VERY BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE! And then you left your friend in Los Angeles. And now suddenly you are also in Vegas Show and you’re all fucking mad that he didn’t call you up and be like, “Hey! Come back 2 me! Let’s go to Vegas!” No, dude, y’all were straight up meanies to him and so he did not call your asses. I am sorry about this! But it is extremely regular! It’s so boring to me when adults get mad at each other without examining their own issues! But perhaps I am putting way too psychology into Step Up All In! That’s fair and I’ll stop!
I would also like to momentarily talk about how when LMNTRIX arrives in Vegas and all of them are in the front of the food truck (?) standing up while it’s driving. This is dangerous and you are not allowed to drive like that! I am sorry to be a narc but you are being illegal, that’s too much standing and it’s giving me a lot of anxiety. You may dance on cars but please drive them right, I think!
Me, this whole movie: “You can’t do that!”
Anyways, the dance at the end is bonkers and I don’t see how they still won the competition. You can’t (here I go again) invite everyone who lost back to dance with you in the final battle and still win. Evil Hunger Games Lady could’ve easily been like, “Oh, wow, you’re disqualified and our evil plan worked because you absolutely broke the rules” and that would’ve been TOTALLY reasonable. But then they just win the whole thing after doing what I swear to god was a steampunk dance rendition of The Mummy and everything is fine and literally everybody kisses each other. I’m so upset.
Step Up 6: Year of the Dance
directed by: China ; screenplay by: an umbrella
runtime: Only 89 minutes, thank god!
release date: I don’t think it was officially released stateside but it came out last July in Russia.
other TEEN movies released that year: Booksmart, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Happy Death Day 2U, Ford v Ferrari
BLUE = MARGETIS ; RED = FARNSWORTH
Oh, my christ. What…is happening. First of all, this whole thing is kind of a compilation of the plot points of the rest of the movies, a Step Up: Greatest Hits, if you will. Remember the Now That’s What I Call Music! CDs? This is Now That’s What I Call Step Up Kind Of But Not Quite! I could keep making this joke 700 more times, should I? What do you think? Let me know.
Anyways, we begin in literal prison. That’s how the movie kicks off—a guy dancing in a jail cell. Gotta say, this is my favorite aspect of the movie generally because, finally, it appears that dancing really DID get someone thrown in jail, just like all the other movies said it eventually would. I made fun of it back then, but here we are, in jail.
He gets out of jail, and there is a shot of him leaving jail holding a briefcase and it looks like he’s leaving the office for the day but, in actuality, he is leaving jail. He goes and meets some dancers and everyone is wearing hats. (If there’s one thing I know about dance at this point, it’s hats. Everyone is always wearing hats.) Anyways, the recently out of jail man does a dance with a girl (??) and this shows that jail didn’t change him completely—he remembers dancing. He can’t dance right now, though, he needs to hide, because the people who he fought with who made him go to jail (??????) are probably looking for him.
Okay, so honestly, I only have my notes to go off of at this point and I wrote them while watching a subtitled movie. I missed a lot of plot points just, constantly, and didn’t really ever know what was actually happening, so now I’m going to tell you what I think this movie was about. A boy band is being created but for dance. There is a villain dancer boy and a hero dancer boy. A secretary tells the villain one he got the part and this is bad because he’s mean.
Meanwhile, at a Business, businessmen have no idea what dance is but still hate it, and when one of them sees the jailbird (who is a construction worker now?) dancing outside, he RUNS into the manager’s office like, “This guy is doing something and I have no idea what. Come and look at this monster.” So then the manager (who is also a dancer but rich?) offers the construction guy (dancer) a part in HIS dance crew, the construction/jail guy declines, and is like, “Have you DIED for dance, like I have?” and the rich manager is like, “I am always wearing an expensive coat.”
Business and dance do not mix. Don’t even try to know both.
The rich manager eventually gets the jailbird to join his crew, “Sky Crew,” and here are some one of the names of the other crew members: Big Bird, Rice Ball, Mr. Kebab. The rest of the movie is just everybody dancing sometimes but mostly being extremely fucking mean to each other. Like REALLY REALLY fucking mean. I have never seen dancers be this mean to each other, and I’ve seen all the other Step Up movies. What happens for the rest of the movie is that it’s a Step Up stew and the Sky Crew dancers do every single thing from the other movies: put a video on YouTube, participate in a rigged competition, someone dies (really violently, it’s horrible). Literally at the final competition, some of the “villain” dancers try to KILL the Sky Crew dancers.
Hey, Michael. Can you talk about this movie now? I truly don’t want to anymore, I’m really upset all over again.
I think we’re very much on the same page not only with how awful this is but how it’s just a greatest hits compilation of plot points from the first five movies. I’d just like to point out that in the beginning, our protagonist, Mr. Jailbird, has the biggest jail cell I’ve ever seen in my life. It is literally the size of four jail cells, so big the entire “Sky Crew” could fit into it if they were also imprisoned. It’s no wonder he’s such a good dancer when he gets out of prison, he had an entire dance studio to practice in all day. Part of me thinks this is the Chinese government being like “See how big our prison cells are! We treat everyone fine!” Fucking Marriott jail cells over there, apparently. Honestly, it could have just been for the opening credit sequence of him dancing in a cell while the daylight of freedom shines on him through jailhouse bars.
I’m not going to run through the plot since Audrey more or less already did that, but I’ll assess different elements of the production. The acting is across the boards stiff and uninteresting, which might not be the actor/dancers fault since the writing is exceptionally shallow here. The female lead seems pretty arbitrary because most the chemistry (if you can call it that) is between Mr. Jailbird and the trust fund boy who bankrolls the operation. Since it’s China, there can’t be any LGBTQIA themes, but I like to think those two were banging. Mr. Jailbird is def the dom in that sitch.
The actual dance sequences are the flattest of the series, managing to out-bore Step Up 5 with its muted enthusiasm. There’s a dance-off at a sweet sixteen birthday or something that almost put me to sleep, and much like Step Up 5, there is no amazing opening dance sequence. Just Jailbird dancing in his studio apartment jail cell. The ending dance contest is probably the most entertaining the movie gets, with an inspiring “respect your competition” message. However, the very end of the movie is a message detailing how much jail time the bad guys in the movie got. I shit you not, here it is:
I’m sure the government had their hand in this as away to dissuade possible offenders in the audience. Thematically, it doesn’t fit with the heartfelt good sportsmanship ending, it’s actually quite jarring. This is meant to frighten the audience into submission, not unlike what we did with the Hays Code from the late 20s to the early 60s.
I’m through talking about this piece of shit. Let’s get onto the final rankings.
FINAL RANKINGS/CLOSING STATEMENTS
These movies are basically more of the same every time out, but like The Fast and the Furious films, they succeed when they are at their stupidest and wildest. The middle installments (2, 3, 4) give you this in spades, while the first entry, the boring fifth entry and the absolutely dreadful imported sixth entry aren’t even worth hate-watching. Compared to the other franchises I’ve reviewed on this site (Halloween, Tremors and Home Alone), this is by far the most consistent. Grade: C+
- Step Up 3D – 5/10
- Step Up 2 the Streets – 4/10
- Step Up 4: Revolution – 3/10
- Step Up – 2/10
- Step Up 5: All In – 2/10
- Step Up 6: Year of the Dance – 1/10
Every person in every one of these movies is the same person so it was a very confusing experience overall, THAT SAID, I never said I didn’t LIKE that, so it was ALSO a good experience, overall.
- Step Up 4: Revolution – 6/10
- Step Up 2 The Streets – 5/10
- Step Up 3D – 3/10
- Step Up 5: All In – 3/10
- Step Up – 2/10
- Step Up 6: Year of the Dance – 1/10
A little something extra…
Originally intended for this article, Audrey and I put together a couple of pitches for Step Up movies. We ran so far with it, we had to make it it’s own article. Expect that soon…
On the Next Franchise With Me…
My all-time greatest collaborator, Sam Lowy, and I blaze through the ridiculous, uneven and at times, downright offensive Collateral Trilogy.