by Mel Valentin
Here 3D, there 3D, everywhere 3D. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then James Cameron has been flattered many times over since "Avatar" broke box-office records last (and this) year. While most 3D films released this year have gone through the post-conversion process (e.g., "Alice in Wonderland," "Class of the Titans," "The Last Airbender," at least one (so far) has gone the native 3D (as in shooting with 3D cameras), "Step Up 3D," the sequel to 2008’s "Step Up 2: The Streets." Both directed by John Chu, they feature attractive, athletic, talented dancers working through a variety of dance “battles,” culminating in a dance-off. The plots and characters are as derivative, clichéd, and unoriginal as the dance sequences are original, engaging, and ultimately, entertaining (minus the often gimmicky 3D that is).Step Up 3D follows two parallel, converging storylines. In one, Moose (Adam G. Sevani), a holdover from Step Up 2: The Streets, arrives at NYU as a college freshman with his childhood friend, Camille (Alyson Stoner). Although he’s promised his doting parents he’ll take his engineering studies seriously, he can’t resist a challenge from a black-clad dancer nicknamed Kid Darkness (Daniel 'Cloud' Campos) as he wanders through Washington Square Park. Moose “wins” the dance battle (onlooker applause), acquires Kid Darkness’ immediate and long-lasting enmity, and gains the attention of a videographer-dancer, Luke (Rick Malambri).
"See it for the dance battles, skip it for the hackneyed screenplay."
Luke is more than a videographer-dancer, however. He owns a warehouse he inherited from his late parents that's converted into a living space for wayward (read: homeless) dancers, male and female. He also runs a dancer-oriented nightclub on the first floor of the building. Luke, however, has fallen behind on mortgage payments (six and counting), leaving an opening for the bitter ex-friend and current rival, Julien (Joe Slaughter), to purchase the building and evict Luke's dance group, ridiculously self-dubbed the House of Pirates. Not coincidentally (nothing in Step Up 3D is coincidental), Julien heads up his dance group, the House of Samurai Luke’s story takes a positive spin when he meets Natalie (Sharni Vinson), an attractive dancer new to New York City who not coincidentally needs a place to stay.
Luke invites Moose to join the Pirates. He thinks Moose’s drive, energy, and enthusiasm is exactly what he’ll need to make it through the finals of a dance competition that bills itself as a World Jam (and championship). The winning team gets $100,000, more than enough for Luke to catch up on mortgage payments. It’s a classic, and yes, predictable plot development straight out of the 1930s’ “putting on a show” musicals that starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Luke also faces an internal conflict between running the warehouse and following his dream to become a filmmaker (which he can only do in California apparently).
Moose’s conflict is no less clichéd: he has to choose between a safe career as a professional engineer and the unsecure career of becoming a dancer, superficially reminiscent of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, but with more trivial consequences. That Moose ultimately gets everything he wants, even making his parents happy, isn’t a surprise, nor is the West Side Story-influenced revelation about Natalie’s background. Then again, Step Up 3D was never meant to be about the stories. If it were, co-screenwriters Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer would have a lot to answer for. To be fair, Andelson and Meyer probably wrote the “screenplay” for Step Up 3D over a weekend.If you see "Step Up 3D," it certainly won’t be for the story or even the characters. It’ll be for the innovative dance sequences (e.g., choreography, set design, costumes, lighting, contemporary music, etc.), the three major battles paced at regular intervals, with Chu cramming the last battle with visual and aural surprises, and individual dance scenes, beginning with Moose’s dance challenge in the park, continuing with a laughter-inducing confrontation in a men’s room, a romantic duet between Luke and Natalie that’s one-part capoiera and one-part parkour, and a Gene Kelly/"Singin’ in the Rain"-inspired sequence between Moose and Camille shot in a single, long take. Chu obviously knows his dance/musical history, but maybe next time, assuming there is a next time, he or the studio will take more time to develop the screenplay and maybe skip the gimmicky, in-your-face 3D effects the next time.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=19939&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/06/10 17:00:00