Step Up 3D Directed by: Jon Chu Cast: Rick Malambri, Adam Sevani, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner, Joe Slaughter Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: August 6, 2010
PLOT: NYU freshman Moose (Sevani) falls in with Luke (Malambri) and his dance crew in a high stakes underground dance competition. Problems arise for both Moose and Luke as Moose struggles to balance his dancing with his schoolwork and Luke struggles to keep the bank from foreclosing on his studio.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is for the people that were able to sit through Step Up and Step Up 2 the Streets. Dance fans who are heavy on the moves and light on plot will be a fan of the third installment in the Step Up series, but it's hard to imagine anyone else will.
EXPECTATIONS: I wasn't expecting a masterpiece, but I've always been a fan of dance movies. I was hoping to be entertained and engaged throughout the dance sequences, but wasn't holding out much hope for anything other than the visuals. I've never been a fan of 3D so I was hoping to see it put to good use, but didn't hold my breath on that either.
Rick Malambri as Luke: It's never clear who the real focus of Step Up 3D is, but Luke is certainly one of them. As a main character, he's light on back story and doesn't even really do that much dancing, but once audience members take a look at Moose, they'll understand why Luke is there. See, Luke is what we call eye candy, while Moose isn't so much. Other than his looks, Malambri brings no personality to a flat, brooding character who just loves to dance. Believe me, no one's keeping an eye on Malambri for his acting skills, but he's not too hard on the eyes either. Score: 4
Adam G. Sevani as Moose: Yup, you read it right. Moose is our other protagonist who's afforded a little more back story. For instance, he used to dance, but when the movie starts he has given it up, but by the end of the movie? You guessed it, he's dancing again. It's never entirely clear why he quit dancing, but he did, okay? This is just one of the many things you have to swallow in Step Up 3D. He's goofy and charming and a helluva dancer, but as a whole, there's not that much to him. Based on his performance as an actor, Sevani is one of the more talented, but that doesn't mean he's without his flaws. In the end, he comes off as the class clown we all had in middle school who lost his charm and quickly became annoying by the time graduation rolled around. Score: 5
Sharni Vinson as Natalie: This is another case of a pretty face. Natalie isn't a very likable character or even very relatable, but she brings it on the dance floor. Her moves are impressive and she knows how to carry herself, but she's not given a whole lot to work with. Her romance with Luke is uninteresting even as the standard test of their relationship throws a wrench in the dynamics of the dance team. At one point I realized that Natalie had been missing from the movie for at least a solid 20 minutes, but when she came back, it was as if nothing had changed. That's the perfect way to describe what Natalie adds to the movie; she's enjoyable when she's onscreen, but when she's not, it's hard to really miss her. Score: 4
Alyson Stoner as Camille: How many times have we been forced to watch two "friends" realize that they mean more to each other? It's hard to say, but it's definitely getting old. What's worse is that Camille is supposed to be smart. I mean, she got into NYU for God's sake, but she tortures us with the charade for a majority of the movie, so that by the end, I didn't even care if she and Moose ended up together. It's a shame because she had potential to be a great character (I mean, look at Duckie in Pretty in Pink) but instead, she feels flat and foolish in the face of Moose's antics. Score: 4
TALKING: Even at the screening of Step Up 3D it felt like it would've worked better as a drinking game. Every time somebody says a line directly lifted from a Hallmark card? Take a shot! The only problem is, you'd be drunk 30 minutes into the movie. There's no originality in the stories or the way that these characters interact, but what's worse is that all of these people come off as a little creepy. For instance, when Natalie tells Luke she's got no place to stay, he offers her the opportunity to crash at his place. Luke, have you never seen Single White Female? Natalie, this is how episodes of Law and order: SVU start, okay? It only gets worse as time goes on. Still, I do have to give the movie some credit as there are a couple of scenes where Luke says something mopey and Natalie straight up laughs at him, which was how I felt most of the time. For the most part, if anyone feels the need to see this movie, wait for the DVD and fast forward through most of the scenes with dialogue. Oh, unless you want to play that drinking game I was talking about. That's actually not a bad idea. Score: 3
SIGHTS: This is where the movie redeems itself and I, as a reviewer, become conflicted. Let's get this out of the way; NYC is beautiful and it showcases the urban sprawl with breathtaking imagery. The real star of the sights section are the dance sequences though. They are absolutely insane. I honestly had no idea that the human body could move that way. It's truly hypnotic and as a fan of dance movies (aside from the bad dialogue and obvious lack of plot, of course) I was sincerely entertained. My main fears for this movie was the whole 3D thing, but it's handled surprisingly well. Sure, there are some scenes that use it as a gimmick (slurpees over a sewer grate? Yeah, it's as gross as it sounds), but for the most part, it's an impressive conversion. It never really adds a whole lot to the movie or the progression of the plot or anything like that, but the important thing is that it never distracts. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The soundtrack to Step Up 3D isn't particularly memorable, but it works well in the setting of the movie. It's extremely bass heavy, but not to the point of a throbbing headache. I recognized a little of it here and there, although a majority of the music used is mashed up into impromptu medleys. The best way to describe it is that it allowed me to stay within the moment, which is half the battle with these dance movies. There were the occasional slower songs that felt awkward and out of place, which usually accompanied Luke brooding, but never for too long. Still, considering that this movie is all about the relationship of these people's bodies with the music, I thought the music would play a bigger role, but it never pulls focus or even sticks out. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: All of the dance sequences are pretty impressive. If I had to pick one, I'd say the first dance battle (those are the words used in the movie, not mine) which heavily features Moose. not only because the kid has got some serious moves, but also, I thought it was the best use of the 3D technology in the movie, so it really came together.
ENDING: It's pretty obvious from the beginning where the movie's going to end, so when it finally does end, there's nothing really left unresolved. Everyone gets their happy ending and I finally got to leave the theater.
QUESTIONS: Is this what it would look like if United Colors of Benetton formed a dance crew? Do ugly people just not dance or what, because I definitely only saw six packs and models? Would $100,000 really cover 5 months of back taxes on a place like that? There are plenty of gaping plot holes in this movie, but plot never seems to be the priority with Step Up 3D.
REWATCHABILITY: I'd say yes, just because I'm a fan of dance movies. Sure, I'd like to do it in the privacy of my own home with the comfort of a remote control to fast forward through the actual story, but for the dance sequences, I think I'd do it.
Step Up 3D is just the latest in the long line of mediocrity that makes up the movie line-up of 2010 so far. It doesn't stand out as one of the worst offenders, but it's also far from a perfect movie. The characters don't even warrant use of the word. The acting is pretty hard to swallow at best, but when it comes down to it, I'm willing to forgive a lot. Sure, I spent most of the movie laughing inappropriately, but for what it's worth, Step Up 3D never really pretends to be anything that it's not. There are those moments of false profundity where I could swear that a Dashboard Confessional song was swelling in the background, but a lot of them are played for laughs. Unfortunately, not enough of them are. At one point during Step Up 3D, and it's difficult to say when, it seems to lose its sense of humor. It wallows in its own sense of self-importance when all I wanted to do is watch them dance. The good news? Usually within 5 minutes of those scenes, at least somebody was dancing. Step Up 3D succeeds on a level of pure entertainment, at least when it comes to the dancing, but for those looking for something more, I'd keep on walking. Even for real dance fans, unless you're a 3D fanatic, this movie might best be enjoyed at home when you can fast forward through some of the slower parts.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10