Step Up 2 the Streets was a dramatic improvement over the dull and lifeless 2006 original. Yet it still feels weird to fully realize how silly this whole franchise is and to still expect Step Up 3D to be better than it actually is. It’s not as if Step Up 2 was changing the dramatic face of movies, but it was certainly fun. It had some good music and great dance sequences. Most of all, it had a story (albeit a thin one) that stayed together and didn’t bounce around from character to character without any idea where to stop. The same can’t be said for the follow-up.
Step Up 3D is a mess of a movie. It’s one giant montage with a made up story simply to get you from set piece to set piece. Yet, I had a good time watching it, but not in that sense where you walk out of the theater telling your friends how great it is, but instead laughing at how bad it was. Does my found enjoyment in laughing at this movie while also being entertained by two or three of its dance sequences warrant it a passing grade? That’s a tough one.
The biggest issue here is a lack of story focus, which begins with the fact the film has two leads. The first is the little skinny kid, Moose (Adam G. Sevani), from Step Up 2. Moose is heading off to NYU with Camille (Alyson Stoner) — who was apparently in the first film and not the second, but I haven’t watched the first in so long I don’t remember her. Moose has stopped dancing and he’s focusing on his degree, but with that said it isn’t more than five minutes in New York that he finds himself in a balloon and bubbles dance battle with a member of the Samurais Dance Team. Yeah, this is serious business and you better believe it’s not the end of this rivalry.
The other lead is Luke (Rick Malambri), the big boss of the dance crew known as the House of Pirates. He has a thing for home movies and plays den master to a bunch of homeless dancers in the warehouse his parents left him. Trouble is, this warehouse for freeloaders is five months past due on its mortgage, a fact that ends up becoming the film’s main plot point, but it is handled extremely haphazardly. Ultimately the Pirates have to win the World Jam dance off to save their house and give the film a climax. Climax it does, but it isn’t pretty.
Of course, the plot is rather thin. Luke is going to lose the house if he they win the dance off. Blah, blah, blah. This is to be expected as it is all in an attempt to piece something decent together getting the story to the next dance segment. In my review of Step Up 2 I compared it to pornography and two years later the comparison still fits. People aren’t watching porn to find out how the pool guy met Cheryl and her friend; they’re watching to see what happens next. The same can be said for the dancing here. Luke and the Pirates are going to lose their house? Who cares, next dance battle please. It would seem first time screenwriters Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer heard the call and made absolutely no effort to piece together an interesting storyline or even try to work with the what little talent they have on hand.
In Step Up 2 Sevani proved he could build an entertaining and charismatic character with Moose. Now, here in Step Up 3D he gets a chance at maybe having a whole movie built around his character, yet Andelson and Meyer have to wedge the knuckleheaded Luke into the picture just to then introduce Natalie (Sharni Vinson), the scantily clad female necessary for a provocative poster and the trailers.
Then you get the laughable acronym BFABB (Born from a Boom Box) and a, not lying, urinal dance off which includes a guy wearing a jacket that has four subwoofers built into it. “You don’t just battle the Samurais once son!” Like I said, that rivalry wasn’t over.
By the time Luke and Natalie performed their parkour workout across the Brooklyn rooftops and play a breezy game of “Squirt the Slurpee” I had already checked out of this story. It doesn’t help Luke is a selfish putz who seems to only recruit people to save his own skin rather than the made up story he’s selling. “What? You’ve got school? But the dance battle is way more important. Get here!” Not cool man. Not cool.
Director Jon Chu is back for a second time around and he’s brought with him Hi-Hat for the dance choreography and seeing how Step Up 3D was actually shot in 3D rather than converted from 2D, the effect is, at times, impressive. The dancing is easily the best part of the movie, even if the finale is somewhat of a letdown. However, whoever came up with the idea to load this film with mechanized sound effects and bubble bursts throughout needs to be taken to the woodshed.
While Step Up 3D does have some nice dance battles, you will be hard pressed not to laugh at the silliness of damn near each and every scene and line of dialogue. The 3D is quite good, and better than any of the 2D-to-3D conversions we’ve seen recently; whether that adds up to a film worth the price of admission is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. If you go with a large enough group of friends, you could have a blast. Just be sure to keep those expectations as low as they can go.