These days, it seems like if you've seen one dance movie, you've seen them all. 3D innovations or not, they really have become that formulaic. To illustrate my point, I've created this handy list of the top three most common dance movie plots from the past few decades:
1. Rich Girl Falls for Boy Dancer From the Wrong Side of the Tracks (Breakin', Dirty Dancing, Save the Last Dance, Step Up)
2. Dance Crew From the Wrong Side of the Tracks Aspires to Win Prestigious Dance Competition (You Got Served, Street Dance 3D)
3. Girl From the Wrong Side of the Tracks Aspires to Be a "Real" Dancer (Flashdance, Honey, Showgirls, Step Up 2)
This week's release, Step Up Revolution, is no exception. In fact, its primary plot point revolves around the most common dance movie trope of them all. Yep, Rich Girl Falls for Boy Dancer From the Wrong Side of the Tracks. Naturally, their mutual love of dance draws them together. And, of course, her rich developer daddy disapproves.
Now don't get me wrong; not all dance movies that revolve around one of those three primary plot points are bad. Dirty Dancing is a great movie -- and it doesn't just coast on flashy dance scenes and the star-crossed lovers theme. It has complex layers, including witty dialogue and some pretty serious, politically charged subplots.
The Step Up movies, on the other hand, lean pretty heavily on flashy dance scenes (not that there's anything wrong with that). But if they're all going to be pretty much the same, why do moviegoers keep flocking to see them in theatres? Why not just watch the first one over and over? Is it for the new dance sequences? Updated costumes? I suppose I could understand that, to a certain extent.
That said, why not raise the bar a little higher? Instead of just mindlessly churning out Step Up flick after Step Up flick, why not pay homage to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers era by coming up with fun, charming movies with actual plots that also happen to have some amazing dance scenes?
And no, I'm not talking about simply pumping out remakes of Top Hat, Swing Time and Shall We Dance. I'm talking about taking the time to put some thought into developing an original story that doesn't just rely on one of the three plot points outlined above. And, y'know, finding great dancers who can actually act. If that's too much of a stretch, get some dancing doubles, a la Black Swan.
Based on the enduring popularity of TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, the demand for dance-related content isn't going anywhere anytime soon. That means filmmakers should have time to develop some dance movies worth seeing instead of quickly churning out sequel after sequel. Who knows, maybe we could even wind up with the next Fred and Ginger instead of Honey 3D. (Don't worry, Honey 3D isn't real. Yet.)