Emily (Kathryn McCormick) and Sean (Ryan Guzman) meet in an exclusive hotel. He is a waiter and leader of the dance crew The Mob, She is the daughter of the hotel’s owner whose redevelopment plans threaten Sean’s home and way of life.
Disclaimer time; I have not seen any of the other movies in this franchise, but I have seen enough dance movies to know what’s what. First off, it seems unlikely that anyone will go to see this movie in the hopes that the story and dialogue will reinvent cinema as we know it. Instead, the audience knows that they are going to be in for some spectacular dancing, and some trite dialogue.
McCormick and Guzman are both fantastic dancers and are great at expressing themselves and their characters’ motivations through their bodies, but as soon as they start to talk it becomes clear that the dialogue is unoriginal and the story of boy and girl from opposite sides of the tracks is one that we know well. Clichés abound, as do repeated lines and enthusiastic delivery, which come off as forced. The story is eerily similar to Dirty Dancing, and the film even contains scenes of the leads dancing in the sea for no apparent reason.
On the positive side, Step Up 4 seems to have learned from the mistakes made by a dance franchise from this side of the world – Streetdance – and has filmed the dance incredibly well. This is the strength of and the whole reasoning for the film, so instead of close ups on the dancers and fast cuts that seemed to be covering up mistakes, Step Up 4 allows the dance to take centre stage, as well it should. The 3D is pointless as usual, and seems to be used to cover up the many pitfalls the film has, however there are one or two scenes that are interesting in 3D.
The central dance crew are flashmob turned protest group, and use dance to highlight the strength of their neighbourhood and to fight for its survival. Everything is tied up just a little too neatly though, and the sight of the Mayor dancing along with the protesters requires disbelief suspended just a little too high.
With all of this in mind, Step Up 4 is made for a very specific audience, and it is a fairly safe bet that this audience will enjoy the film. If, however, you are in your 20s – or older – and are not a professional dancer, this film will hold very little thrall. Step Up 4: Miami Heat is just a vehicle for its dancers, there is nothing wrong with this, but combined with trite dialogue and an underwhelming story, this makes for a very disappointing film.