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Stretch, No Imagination

James Dittger/Summit Entertainment

Step Up All In (2014)

The adorable “Step Up” series of movies has made a lot of money by doing something very simple: holding the camera still and letting very good dancers do their thing. They are mostly filmed in wide shots so we can see exactly what they are doing. The camera doesn’t move too much so we can focus on how great the dancers are. The mood and music are upbeat; and nothing is more important than one’s crew. “Step Up All In” doesn’t deviate from this formula — and that’s great.

The plot — not that it matters too much: Sean (Ryan Guzman) is left behind in Los Angeles by his crew from Miami (and “Step Up Revolution”) after they fail to break Hollywood. He hears about a reality-TV dance competition, with the prize of a three-year residency in Las Vegas hosted by Alexxa Brava (Izabella Miko, channeling Lady Gaga and pulling that off). So with the help of Moose (Adam Sevani, the series’ breakout star and still the cutest thing on two legs), he assembles a new crew of characters mostly from the previous “Step Up” movies — including Andie (Briana Evigan) — and they put on a show!

Director Trish Sie is the woman responsible for the OK Go “Here It Goes Again” treadmill-dance video and does brilliantly with the bigger canvas she’s been given here. The dance sequences truly pop, such as the meet-cute for Andie and Sean at a photo shoot and the audition video sequence shot at Moose’s day job in the power plant with a mad-scientist theme. The movie has been shot in 3-D, which doesn’t add much to the experience but does bring the enthusiasm and good cheer of the dancers practically into our laps. Ms. Sie is less confident elsewhere. A few characters get some nice little pieces of business, such as Chad’s (David Shriebman) channeling of Derek Zoolander and the boy robot dancer (Chadd Smith) finding love with a robot girl in one of the rival crews. But characters mostly sit around their hotel suite and give each other wholesome motivational speeches, which drag.

Worse, the movie makes a large mistake that badly spoils the fun. When Andie tells Sean about a bad knee injury that temporarily derailed her dancing career — and since no other clichéd stone is left unturned — we spend the rest of the movie waiting for her to get hurt again so that it’s impossible to relax and enjoy the truly impressive final dance sequences, especially the one with the steampunk theme.

Sean spends most of the movie pressuring Andie into trying a “Dirty Dancing”-style move with him, which she refuses until the last possible moment where they do it unrehearsed. Originally I thought that there was no way the final move in the film could have been achieved without C.G.I., but Ms. Sie took the trouble to confirm via Twitter that it was done as shown on camera without even the assistance of wires. This is impressive for two reasons: one, it means that Mr. Guzman and mostly Ms. Evigan are utterly unbelievable dancers; and two, that the director of a major Hollywood film took the time to get in touch with us to stand up for her movie.

Step Up All In

Opens on Aug. 1 in Britain and on Aug. 8 in the United States

Directed by Trish Sie; written by John Swetnam, based on characters created by Duane Adler; director of photography, Brian Pearson; edited by Niven Howie; music by Jeff Cardoni; choreography by Jamal Sims, Christopher Scott and Dondraco Johnson; production design by Devorah Herbert; costumes by Soyon An; produced by Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot, Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig; released by Universal Pictures (Britain) and Summit Entertainment (United States). Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. This film is rated PG by B.B.F.C. and PG-13 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Ryan Guzman (Sean), Briana Evigan (Andie), Misha Gabriel (Eddy), Stephen Boss (Jason), Izabella Miko (Alexxa Brava), Alyson Stoner (Camille), Adam Sevani (Moose), Mari Koda (Jenny Kido), David Shreibman (Chad), Chadd Smith (Vladd), Facundo Lombard and Martin Lombard (the Santiago twins), Luis Rosado (Monster), Christopher Scott (Hair), Parris Goebel (Violet) and Cyrus Spencer (Gauge).

Editor’s Note: Aug. 4, 2014

The movie review of “Step Up All In” on July 31 dismissed the final dance move under the assumption that it was accomplished with C.G.I. The film's director, Trish Sie, has since alerted us that no C.G.I. was employed. Thus, this review has been amended to reflect the fact.


It's Trish Sie again, director of Step Up All In. Thanks so much for taking the time to clarify the CGI issue. You guys are great. Full disclosure-- as I stated on twitter, we used flesh and blood dancers and no digital enhancement on the dancing, even the final flip. But if you look closely in the end credits, you'll notice that dance doubles are listed among the cast. So yes, a bit of "movie magic" was involved in that shot. But it was a real, live death-defying move performed by actual human beings, not computers. Standing up for my movie, for sure... but I have to come clean!

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