The joke I’ve been hearing this week regarding Step Up All In is whether or not it’s necessary to catch up on the first four Step Ups in order to “get” what’s happening in this latest installment. Because dumb and who cares, you know?
Truth? You should catch up, and not just because – deep breath – in this one The Mob from Step Up Revolution find themselves down and out in Los Angeles after Nike woos them away from Miami, only to drop them when social-justice-fixated flash mobs prove to have less long term traction than Beanie Babies. True believer Sean (Ryan Guzman), however, won’t give up his dreams for the comforts of that community center they all saved from evil land developers back in Florida, and here his dream is fixated on a competition called The Vortex, held in Las Vegas and hosted by a pop star named Alexxa Brava (Coyote Ugly's Izabella Miko) who is one part Gaga, one part Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games and one part wig from 18th century France. Winners of The Vortex get their own Vegas casino show for three years.
But without The Mob, Sean is just another Nomi Malone hoping for a break, until Moose (Adam G. Sevani), who is The President of Step Up, glides in to recruit dancers from all the previous Step Up movies, including Andie (Briana Evigan) from Step Up 2: The Streets, who immediately clashes with Sean in the way that people who will soon be making out always do. Moose is so ingrained in the fabric of this universe that he’s also dating Camille (Alyson Stoner), Channing Tatum’s little sister from the boring original Step Up.
A digression regarding Moose: as the franchise’s most beloved character, he’s always on the inside and the outside. Like very young Judy Garland barging into films like Broadway Melody of 1938 to shout, “Hey everybody, wanna hear me sing?” before employing her supernatural talent to slay all humans within earshot, Moose arrives in the frame to dance better than every single other person, then he moves off to the side and comments on the silly plot contrivances. His best line here (already spoiled in the trailer): “Does this always have to end up in a big giant dance battle?”
The answer is, duh, hell yeah.
And speaking of Broadway Melody of 1938 and people who got jokes, yes, this is all super dumb. All of it. But it’s not more dumb than Robert Taylor stumbling upon race horse stable gal Eleanor Powell in the box car of a moving train and then finding out she’s the greatest tap dancer that ever lived, before whisking her off to Manhattan to star in his big show and, oh yes, falling in love with her. (That, FYI, is what happens in Broadway Melody of 1938 when Garland isn't singing songs about unrequited teenage crushes to a head shot of Clark Gable.)
What matters here, like in all the Step Up films, is not the talky words in between big giant dance battles, it’s the aggressive, outlandish movement. And nothing else. Bodies flying through the air and flirting with extreme cranial injury. Costumes whipped up out of nothing from nowhere. Instant familial connection earned via loyalty to rehearsal time and the ability to leap off a bouncing, hydraulic car and land spinning on one’s elbow. Impeccably synchronized and extremely complicated routines imagined in one brain and telepathically communicated to the rest of the crew, culminating in big giant dance battle after big giant dance battle. To live here is to understand the vital importance of big giant dance battle. Nothing else is necessary. Go catch up.