Step Up 3D (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
The good news: The 3D in Step Up 3D looks great — it's bold, striking and vivid. The bad news: Everything else about the movie is terrible.
Surely the street dancing is good, you say. Maybe it is. It certainly appears physically impressive. But in a movie where everything relies on how well someone dances, it's a critical flaw to fail to explain what makes these dance performances good or bad. There are competitions, winners and losers and judges, but we never know what the judges are looking for. It's like a sports movie that doesn't share even the most basic rules of the sport.
Returning from Step Up 2: The Streets is Moose (Adam G. Sevani), now a freshman at New York University. His parents want him to stop dancing and study engineering, which is a sure sign he's going to keep dancing. He meets Luke (Rick Malambri), who deems Moose a natural and invites him to meet the "Pirates," who are residents of "the vault," a commune of sorts where Luke's friends live and dance.
With a $100,000 grand prize and their ability to pay for their home on the line in an upcoming dance competition, the Pirates can use all the help they can get. Luke thinks Natalie (Sharni Vinson) can help the team as well, but she's also his token love interest, so artificial/forced/tacky conflicts ensue.
Much of the story from newbie screenwriters Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer ignores logic, reason and accountability. Luke follows everyone around with a camera, yet wants his filmmaking aspirations to be kept a secret. Here's an idea: If it's a secret, don't follow everyone around with a camera. Also, Moose clearly looks up to Luke, but Luke is a terrible influence. Hey Moose, you're supposed to meet your lifelong best friend Camille (Alyson Stoner, back from the first Step Up) for lunch? Blow her off to hang with me. What, you have college exams? Who needs school when you can DANCE!
This is also the type of movie in which rivals bump into one another in nightclub bathrooms and dance moves determine who wins the showdown. I'm not sure about you, but I've heard this is how all tough guys in bars are settling their disputes these days.
But at least the 3D looks great. And not for a second can you forget the movie was shot in 3D, what with the bubbles, balloons, frozen drinks and more flying into your face. It makes sense (unlike many of the other choices surrounding this film) to use 3D to make the dancing jump onscreen, but why all the cheap gimmicks to go with it? Rookie director Jon Chu clearly doesn't know where to stop, just like his performers clearly don't know how to act.
For the film's climactic dance-off scene, members of the Pirates wear brand-new outfits highlighted by electronic lighting that perfectly synchronizes with their dance moves. Visually this is very impressive. Then you recall they're supposed to be broke and fighting for their livelihood, and you wonder how they can afford such high-tech, extravagantly designed costumes with no money. And it dawns on you for the final time: Right, all that matters is looking good. It isn't supposed to make sense.
Dan Hudak writes film reviews at hudakonhollywood.com.