Sex wizards: Step Up All In

The fifth entry in the subversive Step Up franchise climaxes, quite literally, in an orgiastic pan-dimensional pagan dance ritual, which is equal parts Busby Berkeley, Kenneth Anger and Cocksucker Blues via Clive Barker’s vaunted student films.

Waging an eldritch sex-essence war against the malign homunculus forces of The Vortex, a shadowy Las Vegas Death Cult with Illuminati connections (see: Madonna’s Superbowl XLVI performance), it’s up to our twelve ‘Chohans’ (Ascended Masters) antagonists, otherwise significantly collectively christened ‘Lmmental’, to perform a desperate rite to fight back eternal, all devouring entropy.

Spasmodically writhing, popping, locking and indeed even robot dancing, our antagonists attempt to harness the twelve mythical ‘Rays’ in a spectacular, doomed effort to preserve the fragile spark at the heart of universal existence.

Little do our twelve Chohan heroes suspect that victory will bring with it the toll of eternal enslavement as vigilant guardians of the membrane between the realms of death and our reality.

But back up the truck: how did we arrive at this dire confluence of events? *

Flashback to L.A., a couple of weeks prior.

Sean (Ryan Guzman) dreams of cracking the competitive dance scene in Ell Ay with his crew of fellow hoofers, The Mob. He’s devastated when left high and dry after another embarrassing round of failed auditions and spontaneous dance-offs with a bloke who looks suspiciously like a cryogenically preserved Donnie Wahlberg (welcome, Millennials).

Despondent, Sean, who’s going to have to give up the lease on his loft and everything (the MacBook stays), conveniently chances upon a promotion hosted by a sentient Real Doll, for a lucrative upcoming jig-comp in Las Vegas known as The Vortex.

Now, if only he had a crew…

Look.

I’m not going to insinuate, even for a pico-second, that I’m the intended audience for this stuff.

Far be it from me to claim any great affinity with the mall-dwelling tween mums and Snapchattin’ Bieber enthusiasts (no judgment, mind) at whose wallets this film is pitched.

At best, Step Up All In elicits an exasperated sigh of creaky misanthropic resignation. Utterly emblematic of the cultural Idiocracy prophesied by Mike Judge and contained in infinitely more offensive fluff, Step Up All In is pretty much wholly embodied by the ‘oeuvre’ of Michael Bay and the auteurs behind the (at present) Fast & Furious sexology.

This is not to say this flick, whose writing and direction credits are ceremonial at best, doesn’t push its own banal, homogenised manifesto on the foibles of evidently well-off, vapid, interchangeable western automatons in the early 21st century.

With performances best described as on par with the Power Rangers, and an approach to race and ethnicity somewhere in the realms of ‘risible stereotyping’ — what with its whiffy ‘cultural comedy’ and brazenly cartoonish profiling — this is an effort that even utterly squibs its drawcard production numbers.

I’d imagine the correlation between ‘getting jiggy’ and dance are quite well established by now.

So how, even in a PG-rated context, does Step Up All In’s much vaunted set-piece numbers utterly fail to capitalise on the central conceit of foxy airheads, scantily clad, showing off to get in one another’s knickers?

Putting aside the fact the film’s crotch-mangling 3D actually verges on being physically painful to watch, I’d put it to you (matron) that any troupe who rooms in a loft together — a veritable hotbed of entanglements — would have a little more going on in the old ‘chemistry’ department.

But I digress.

This is pretty much fish in a barrel stuff, granted: of course the combined powers of good dentistry, friendship, teamwork and some nice clothes will win out at the end of the day. And hard work will always equal reward and a three year residency in a Las Vegas dream factory (not to mention cracking box office and an inevitable Step Up VI: Marching Powder).

But really, at the end of the day (and I apologise in advance for revealing the last tattered remnants of my idealism), couldn’t we all just try a little bit harder?

* Full disclosure: we left after the ‘hilarious’ bit where goats’ balls were eaten, roughly thirty minutes in.

I’m not getting any younger.

Originally published at www.hopscotchfriday.com.