The night before I went to see the movie, I was talking to one of the theater managers. We were discussing what I was going to be seeing the next day. I sheepishly told him and he actually said he was thinking about seeing it as well. He told me to make sure to see it in theater 15, with the new 7.1 sound system (it was one of only a pair of films this year to be encoded for it). We also talked about what dance movies are really for. They clearly are not about the story or the acting (I am sure there are some who would argue the point but seriously, there is little in the way of quality on those counts). They are there to show off physical skills and good choreography.
In many ways dance films are like kung fu movies. They have similar structures with the story serving to lead into the plentiful fight sequences, or dances as the case is here. Generally people are more interested in the fights or dances than the story. Both involve choreography and performers more skilled at performing said choreography than acting. Where they differ in my opinion is in the seriousness of what they are doing. Yes, I understand those in the dance community will likely take umbrage with what I am about to say and believe me, I mean no offense, I am just not embedded in the culture.
Step Up 3D picks up at some point after the second and centers on the lone returning character from the second film, Moose (Adam G. Sevani), joined with Camile (Alyson Stoner) from the first film as they begin their college careers at NYU. Moose is left with his father looking forward to the future engineer and glad that he gave up that "dance stuff." Now, we all know what that means.
No sooner have the parental units left that Moose finds himself in a street dance battle, chased by police and rescued by street dancer, amateur filmmaker, night club owner, and entrepreneur named Luke (Rick Malambri). Lots of descriptors for a guy who just wants to dance. In any case, besides the bigger issues of bad acting and bad dialogue, this is the character who is always talking about dance as a way of life, how dance can change the world and other nonsense whose only purpose here is to make the story seem bigger, more epic, and more important than it really is. I just found it all rather unbelievable and unnecessary. I would have been just as happy with the impending threat of the dance off.
After all, everyone in the audience only really cared about when the next dance bit was coming and how good it was going to be. I suspect that most of those in attendance did not care about the importance of a move or how life changing and defining dance can be. I could have been sold if the overall package has been more compelling.
As we follow Moose, he tries to juggle school life and his new underground dance troupe. It is a tough balancing act for the guy, but he makes it work. His tale splits time with Luke who is trying to keep his multi-ethnic, multi-styled crew together in the face of mounting bills and an upcoming battle with a rival crew. Oh yes, there is also the romance of Luke and newcomer with a past Natalie (Sharni Vinson).
The dancing was quite good throughout. Each sequence was filled with gravity defying flips, joint destroying pops and locks, and all manner of moves and slides. All of it was quite invigorating and they make it look so easy.
Director Jon M. Chu did a fine job of keeping the pace up and utilizing the 3D gimmick to good effect. It was a little disconcerting early on watching live action in 3D (I find this happens regularly in these films as my eyes need a little time to adjust), but it ended up working nicely. The added depth helped expand the dance sequences as they went deeper into the screen and even came off of it a little bit.
Something else I found interesting as a bit of a side note, there was more than dance involved here. It seemed that a few of the dances involved martial arts, namely capoeira. There was also a few sequences that appeared to involve parkour. Luke and Natalie went on a rooftop run that was very parkour-like, as well as a couple of street level chases. Interesting little bonuses next to the dancing.
Bottomline. Dancing was fine, the skills on display were quite impressive, but overall it is not so good of a movie. The acting is poor, the dialogue even worse, and the air of self-importance was a little off-putting. If you like dance movies, this is for you, all others feel free if your curious, but don;t expect too much. Not a terrible movie, not a great movie. I doubt I will see it again.
Very Mildly Recommended.