The “Step Up” series is the rare franchise that has grown more ambitious with each installment. As the dance numbers have become flashier and splashier, the stories have become more fanciful, occasionally even supplementing their be-yourself bromides with socially engaged ideas.
But “Step Up All In,” directed by dancer and choreographer Trish Sie, signals a slight retreat from the bonkers, protest-themed “Step Up Revolution” (2012), which pitted a tactically divided flash mob against a politically connected real estate developer. The new film, the fifth in the series, tackles a humbler subject: the travails of the working artist.
Sean (Ryan Guzman), the hero of the last movie, struggles to start a career as a dancer in Los Angeles. Having lost the confidence of his crew, he plans to enter a televised contest in Las Vegas, whose prize is a three-year booking.
Moose (Adam Sevani), now happily living with Camille (Alyson Stoner) but resigned to working as an engineer, helps him find a new team, which, of course, means recruiting characters from “Step Up 2 the Streets” and “Step Up 3D.” These include Andie (Briana Evigan), who tests Sean’s resolve with a lively dance-off in a costume warehouse.
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While “All In” continues the franchise’s urban tourism, Las Vegas makes for a more sterile backdrop than New York, Miami or Baltimore. When the cast isn’t dexterously spinning, “All In” turns into a promotional video for Caesars Palace. As usual, the principals take turns giving up on the contest before returning at opportune moments to apologize.
Most numbers aim for maximum ostentation (the Frankenstein’s-lab-themed audition video, with shattering beakers in 3D, is a hoot), but the films’ highlights have often been quieter expressions of joy. When Sean and Andie dance to Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” through the spinning cars of an empty amusement-park ride, “All In” briefly sheds its flash and calculation and exudes the infectiousness of an old-fashioned movie musical.