Step Up 4: Miami Heat (USA, 2012)
Directed by Scott Speer
Starring Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Misha Gabriel, Cleopatra Coleman
Most film franchises don't make it past their third instalment. The fourth film in a given series - a "four-quel", to quote Mark Kermode - is often the point where all remaining principles and good intentions go out of the window. The franchise has innovated itself as far as it possibly can, the quality has already started to decline (good three-quels are very rare) and everyone has decided to just give up and enjoy what's left of the box office.
Step Up itself this was acceptable, because director Anne Fletcher used their melodramatic nature as a springboard into something that was appealing and interesting. But since that point the series has become less and less about character and plot, to the point where if you took out all the talking, it would just be a series of music videos.
Step Up 3. But it is still an immensely episodic venture whose moments of dialogue are often just book-ends to the set-pieces. The characters are so clearly defined in their narrative roles that some of them don't need to open their mouth before we know exactly what they will do by the end. If you were immensely generous, you could point to the tradition of silent cinema and deriving character from gesture, but such traditions seem far from the creators' minds.
Step Up 2 The Streets, being far too loose and lazy with its characters but not as offensively aimless as Step Up 3. And then, around halfway through, the film shifts very slightly and starts to actually carry a little more weight around. The series returns to its roots, trying to use dancing to communicate an idea or contrast with another section of society, rather than just try to impress us with heavily-edited physical exertion.
NEXT REVIEW: A Clockwork Orange (1971)