‘Why does there always have to be a huge great dance-off?’ muses one character just before a huge great dance-off. Why? Because that's the ‘Step Up’ way. Operating in a universe of physical illogicality as fantastical as any Busby Berkeley musical, the ‘Step Up’ series is an impeccably choreographed law unto itself. More predictable than a Bond movie, the good guys will always triumph via the medium of dance, after the requisite set-backs, and that’s just fine, because no-one watches a ‘Step Up’ movie for the suspenseful plot – the devil is in the details.
In the case of ‘Step Up 5: All In’, the devil in question is Alexxa Brava, a dodgy Vegas pop diva offering impoverished dance troupes a coveted three year Caesar’s Palace residency. Played with manic commitment by Polish actor/dancer Izabella Miko, she’s a fabulously costumed cross between Lady Gaga and Elizabeth Banks in ‘The Hunger Games’. The rest of the cast are a pic ‘n’ mix assortment of stars from past ‘Step Up’ instalments, whose talent on the dance floor, rendered in glorious 3D, mostly compensates for the script’s understandably two-dimensional approach to characterisation.
Thematically, ‘Step Up 5’ is a call back to the anxieties motivated by the 2008 financial crisis that drove ‘Step Up 3D’ (2010) – once more, it’s hard out there for a hot dancer to make rent. After the relative optimism of ‘Step Up 4: Miami Heat’ (2012), which was more preoccupied with the logistics of rival flashmobs, it’s perhaps a sign that the much touted financial recovery is yet to impact positively on the lives of financially straightened young arts performers.