Exhilaratingly post-dumb or infuriatingly actual-dumb? That is the Step Up Revolution question. And the answer lies down the path of madness, a path you might not dare to tread unless you're fully committed to a lifestyle of context-free booty-poppin'.
Taken as a 100 minute-long windstorm of Skittles, as a thing of elaborately choreographed, numbskulled beauty, as the latest hip-hop entry in the cinematic line that began with elaborate Busby Berkeley creations to the flabbergasting BOOM! of this movie's stand-up-and-cheer-worthy opening five minutes -- a crazy aggressive throwdown involving multi-hued hydraulic cars and 3D people flying at your face -- this fourth installment delivers exactly what it's supposed to. It's dancing about dance for the sake of dance.
The plot, simple enough for a third-grader to get, involves the Boy (Ryan Guzman) and the Girl (Kathryn McCormick) fighting The Bad Corporation People (Peter Gallagher and other frowny types in Lacoste shirts) to make them quit trying to raze the neighborhood for a billion-dollar luxury development. They will protest this injustice with ever-growing, pulsating flash mobs of people who practice in an underground lair, whip up matching costumes in seconds and infiltrate public spaces so expertly as to suggest bulk ownership of invisibility cloaks. How this is supposed to make the Big Bad run away screaming is never fully explained, but so what? It works because dancing is street justice and glow-in-the-dark dubstep ballerinas are the world's greatest secret weapon. Or something. That they get their way in the end will surprise you only if you are, in fact, a person who's never seen a movie before.
And that is the reading of this film as 100% good times.
You can ignore the other reading if you like. In fact, to fully enjoy yourself you'll kinda have to. But know that it'll involve not paying attention to the very Occupy-like message the movie thinks it's delivering. You'll have to wave away the film's endorsement of ideas like social justice, community, anti-corporate domination of everything, and improving the lives of low-wage workers. And you'll have to ignore it because that's what the film does itself in its final moments. After paying lip service to these good-will concepts, after the threat of destruction is gone, after the world has been righted with skilled acrobatics and remixes of Fergie jams, something happens. It’s a thing the film declares to be a reward for the dance crew's hard work, but in reality is a moral-killing script flaw, one nobody caught or -- worse -- cared if you do.
READER ALERT: SPOILER COMING. STOP HERE AND NOW IF YOU CARE.
My advice: walk out when the big final number is over and everyone is group-hugging. Scram before the final 30 seconds of dialogue, when you can still float home on a cheerful, innocent cloud of wiggling 3D butts. And if you do decide to stay remember one thing: "Nike sweatshop" doesn't have its own Wikipedia page for nothing.