FILM REVIEW: Step Up 4 (PG)

The heat is on and the clothes are off in the fourth chapter of the high-energy dance franchise, which propelled Channing Tatum’s star into the ascendancy in 2006.

While he may be long gone from Step 4: Miami Heat, scriptwriters Duane Adler and Amanda Brody work to the same tried and tested formula, pairing a body-popping hunk and a gymnastic honey to a soundtrack of Timbaland, Flo Rida and Pitbull.

This time, there are no dance battles between rival crews which culminate in a final reel showdown.

Instead, director Scott Speer somersaults into the increasingly fashionable world of flash mobs, staging impromptu performances around sun-baked East Coast locations.

Sean (Ryan Guzman) and best friend Eddy (Misha Gabriel) work at one of Miami’s most popular hotels.

When they are not serving guests with overpriced drinks, the handsome duo mastermind a troupe of hugely talented dancers and artists nicknamed The Mob.

They orchestrate daring flash mobs around the city, hoping to win an online competition by attracting more than 10 million views to their videos. They are currently ranked second, behind a performing cat.

During a night out, Sean meets Emily (Kathryn McCormick), who is preparing an audition for a prestigious dance company.

Attraction is instant, then Sean discovers Emily is the daughter of Mr Anderson (Peter Gallagher), who has just announced plans to bulldoze the neighbourhood to make way for a multimillion-dollar development.

Sean and Eddy plan the ultimate flash mob to galvanise support against Anderson and stop the bulldozers from destroying their community.

“Enough with performance art, it’s time for protest art!” proclaims Emily defiantly, rebelling against her father, who has never respected her need for self-expression.

Step Up 4: Miami Heat gyrates clear of realism in the opening 10 minutes, which sees The Mob perform atop gridlocked cars as bystanders cheer them on.

Dance sequences become increasingly elaborate, including an intervention at an art gallery that would be logistically impossible given the timeframe and on-site security.

Plausibility aside, Speer’s film is undemanding fun.

By abandoning the rigid structure of dance battles from previous films, choreographers incorporate every conceivable style, including ballet, Latin and robot.

Martial arts fighter and professional model Guzman is easy on the eye and he’s certainly not shy about flaunting his washboard abs.

He doesn’t have the fluid, tight moves of his co-stars so director Speer sensibly affords his leading man just one brief solo before he merges into the frenetic group sequences.

In stark contrast, contemporary dancer McCormick relishes her extended moments alone in the spotlight, demonstrating grace and agility as her feisty heroine hones her audition piece.

On-screen chemistry simmers nicely.

3D is noticeable when dancers blow sand into the camera or a shower of water cascades invitingly over lithe bodies, but otherwise the format is redundant.

By Damon Smith

:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10

Released: August 10 (UK & Ireland), 99 mins