Step Up 3D
Review by Jack Foley
THE reviews for any dance-orientated movie of late would appear to write themselves: great dancing, lame story, lousy script.
Step Up 3D follows its predecessors, as well as the likes of Stomp The Yard, Take The Lead and Britain’s Streetdance 3D as cliché-ridden, yet highly energetic, rags to riches tales that follow a tried and tested formula.
On this occasion, we follow Luke (Rick Malambri), an aspiring filmmaker, who heads a tight-knit group of New York City street dancers called The Pirates, who live and rehearse in the warehouse his parents left him.
When their dream lifestyle is threatened by a shortfall in mortgage payments, they set out to win the $100,000 prize being offered in the upcoming World Jam, but face tough competition from Luke’s former partner Julian (Joe Slaughter) and his rival group, The Samurai.
Thrown into this mix, meanwhile, are two new dance recruits in the form of Natalie (Sharni Vinson), a beautiful new talent with a secret, and freshman Moose (Adam G. Sevani), who struggles to combine college studies and past friendships with his desire to indulge in dance.
Jon Chu’s movie is as derivative and formulaic as they come, yet not entirely dislikeable thanks to the gusto with which he directs the many dance sequences.
In fact, it could be argued that the director knows where the film’s strengths and appeal really lies, and has concentrated his energy in ensuring that these sequences are as breathless and thrilling as is physically possible.
He also makes effective use of the 3D, ensuring that arms and legs literally fly out of the screen at you, as well as various other props (such as water and dust). There’s a proximity to the dancing that almost places you at the sweaty heart of the action.
It’s just a shame, therefore, that Chu seems not to have bothered in all other departments. The plot is so formulaic as to be predictably obvious, while the laughable script deprives any of the cast any opportunity to really act. Hence, characters are thinly sketched, at best, and are more clichés than people.
What’s more, by making Luke an aspiring filmmaker with lofty aspirations of artistic greatness, the film flirts with accusations of pretentiousness. It’s an ill-advised move.
Curious, too, is the decision to place one of the film’s very best dance sequences, involving water, at the centre of proceedings, rather than as part of the grand finale. It could be said to peek too early.
While even some of the 3D elements are overdone, including a cringe-worthy sequence involving Slushees atop a subway vent that really is cheesy and unreal.
Of the cast, Malambri is a slightly too serious and a little too wooden Ashton Kutcher look-alike, while Vinson a feisty if under-used Briana Evigan wannabe. Sevani’s Moose is more annoying than endearing, while Slaughter’s villain a one dimensional loser in waiting.
It could be argued that Step Up 3 works hard to paper over its failings with innumerable dance sequences, but when all’s said and done and people have caught their breath, there have been better examples of more satisfying dance experiences.
Indeed, the inclusion of a Glee cast member (Harry Shum Jr) merely serves as an appropriate reminder of a show that does the same kind of thing with so much more wit, invention and a greater sense of feeling and character.
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 29, 2010