The "Step Up" franchise will never be confused for high-minded cinema, and that's okay, but fifth entry "Step Up: All In" is so divorced from anything resembling reality that it is astonishing to behold. The best advice, though, would be to avoid beholding it. Trish Sie (a music video director making her feature debut) and writer John Swetnam (2014's "Into the Storm
") have brewed a hodgepodge of inanity intersected by a collection of dance sequences that, taken on their own, are fluidly shot and visually energetic. Whatever down-to-earth charms 2006's "Step Up
," 2008's "Step Up 2: The Streets
," 2010's "Step Up 3
," and 2012's series-best "Step Up: Revolution
" might have held, they are long gone in this tired, tacked-on sequel.
Sean (Ryan Guzman) thought he had it made when he and dance crew The Mob moved to Los Angeles after winning a spot in a Nike commercial. Six months later, they are broke, unemployed and tired of rejection. When his friends give up and return to their home in South Beach, Sean is suddenly on his own and more desperate than ever for a big break. His last chance for a career doing what he loves could very well lay in the hands of "The Vortex," a VH1 reality dancing competition where the winning team earns their own show and residence at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace. With the help of good pal Moose (Adam Sevani), now working as an engineer who has tried to put his fancy footwork behind him, Sean manages to pull together a new crew of old friends to compete alongside them. When it comes to the cutthroat "The Vortex," coming out on top may be even more difficult than they anticipate.
What is there to say about "Step Up: All In?" Well, it's the kind of movie where characters just out of college live in posh apartments with spacious balconies overlooking the twinkling, front-and-center Hollywood sign. It's the kind of film where Camille (Alyson Stone) shows up unexpectedly in Sin City at precisely the right second to get the wrong idea when a blonde girl at a bar throws herself at boyfriend Moose. In a case of sloppy editing, it takes someone a full 24 hours to travel from Las Vegas to L.A. Not a single member of Sean's crew has a family member who bothers to show up to cheer them on while they perform on national televisionthat is, save for Moose's sage, advice-giving grandparents (Karin Konoval and Frank Crudele). You want speeches of rallying would-be inspiration? Falling-outs, misunderstandings and last-minute reconciliations? That's all here in bulk. And what of said "So You Think You Can Dance"-esque live reality competition series "The Vortex?" Well, there are barely no cameras or coverage, no producers or behind-the-scenes preparation, no commercial breaks, and an Effie Trinket-inspired host, Alexxa Brava (Izabella Miko), who looks like she just wandered away from a "Hunger Games
" cosplay convention. The picture is so naive and uninformed about the ins and outs of television production that it reminds of something a 4-year-old child might imagine in her mind after watching her first two minutes of an "American Idol" episode.
Returning from the ten-times-better "Step Up: Revolution
," Ryan Guzman has lost all conviction in the intervening two years. His Seanso likable in the previous filmis written here as controlling, whiny and manipulative when he doesn't get his way. He supposedly means well, but he doesn't mean well enough. When asked to emote, Guzman has trouble selling it. It is obvious he doesn't believe in the material, and who could blame him? Reprising her "Step Up 2: The Streets
" role as Andie, Briana Evigan is more convincing than her co-star and possible onscreen love interest, acting circles around Guzman and just about everyone else. The exception is Izabella Miko (2010's "Clash of the Titans
"), who channels an alien from another planet to play theatrical host of "The Vortex" Alexxa Brava. Miko fearlessly purrs her way through this oddball part, chewing the scenery with such auspicious gusto that she belongs next to Paz de la Huerta in "Nurse
" as the year's two most excitingly bonkers performances.
Early in "Step Up: All In," Sean and his buddies go to a nightclub to let off some steam and find themselves in an elaborate dance-off with Jasper (Stephen "Stev-O" Jones) and his crew after the two guys lightly happen to bump into each other. Any guesses who their main rivals will be on "The Vortex?" As this particular series goes on and the characters get older, at what point will they actually stop being so petty and finally grow up? Amidst the gaudy flash of the Vegas Strip and the dim-bulb sizzle of the insipid script, "Step Up: All In" has a couple choice dance setpieces that make no logical sense but are still pretty cool, one conceived as a music video set in a mad scientist's lab, and another taking place on a swirling carnival ride to the strains of Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step." With that said, none of the choreography is anywhere near as inspired as that found in "Step Up 3
" or "Step Up: Revolution
." With little left to identify with or care the least bit about, the brightest days of the largely mediocre "Step Up" movies appear to be in the past.