Directed by Jon M. Chu
The third film in the ongoing “Step Up” franchise, “3D” is one that, in many ways, defies a critical approach and, frankly, more power to it. The fact of the matter is that, if you’re not someone to whom the camp nature of a 3D dance movie appeals, you’re not going to lose any sleep over missing this one in the theater. There’s no false advertising here. This is a very silly movie, but it’s a pretty fun one as well.
Just to get it out of the way (because, truly, it does not matter), “Step Up 3D” follows Adam G. Sevani’s Moose (one of the secondary characters from the second film) who is headed off to NYU with Alyson Stoner’s Camille (one of the secondary characters from the first film). Though he’s promised to give up dance to concentrate on his schoolwork, Moose is soon inducted into a charismatic dance-gang called the Pirates, lead by the good-looking, brooding filmmaker/dancer Luke (Rick Malambri). Also inducted is free-spirited traveler Natalie (Sharni Vinson), who forms a relationship with Luke while the team practices for a gigantic dance-off. If they fail to win, they stand to lose their eccentric dance complex (truly the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse of dance).
Far moreso than the second film (which he also directed), Jon Chu seems well aware of the camp factor involved in a film called “Step Up 3D” and maintains a fairly infectious balance of laughing at/laughing with. What’s more, the solid 3D is treated like a good old fashioned gimmick and, “immersive experience” be damned, it’s just plain fun to watch.
Yes, there are some groan-worthy moments, including the heavy-handed application of a “dance matters” message that opens the film and returns repeatedly in the form of scene from Luke’s dance documentary. One of the more entertaining aspects of the “Step Up” universe is that it takes place in an imaginary world where everyone dances. If you’re getting pushed around by bullies, you’ll have to outdance them. If you’re sneaking into a fancy dress party, you’re going to have to dance your way through. To that end, we don’t need to be told over and over that dance is something important. We can see it and there are no apologies necessary.
As far as the history of dance goes, though, there is a far more effective stab in that direction in this third outing when Moose and Camille share a dance straight out of the Gene Kelly era. Filmed on a New York street in a single shot, the dance is as close as the film ever comes to giving up its “real world” verisimilitude and just becoming a full-blown musical. There’s even a slight comedic commentary as off-screen ADR voices yell at Moose for swinging from streetlamps or climbing across benches. It’s sounds from a world that doesn’t embrace that same spirit and, as such, is appropriately muted.
The Bottom Line: