I am not a dancer but I know enough of them and I’ve seen enough episodes of “So You Think You Can Dance” at this point to know that they are some of the hardest working and most passionate artists out there. Like one of the greatest dancers in history once sang jubilantly while he kicked his heels in the air, dancers just gotta dance. (That would be Gene Kelly in case you weren’t aware.) The street kids of Jon Chu’s “Step Up 3D” start their journey with us by expressing this passion in testimonials to the camera and I thought for a moment that this might be that something unique that captures that particular passion perfectly. It only took about two minutes though to see that this was going to be nothing more than just another dance movie after all.
I have also seen enough dance movies to know that they don’t change that much from one to the next. Before a single move is busted, we meet Moose (Adam G. Sevani), a scrawny engineering geek who is just starting college and has to leave his passion for dance behind him. It’s time to be a man and get with the real world of course. He ends up in some NYC park dance-off, as I’m sure those happen daily, when Luke (Rick Malambri), the leader of a group of mismatched dancers called The Pirates, plucks him up as if he is his own personal fairy god-dancer, and makes him the newest member of his troupe. Moose doesn’t really have a say in the matter either. He does have school but this is the dance capital of the world; this is New York City! (Naturally, I know this because Alicia Keys is singing “Empire State of Mind” as we montage over the city.) Luke and company now have to win some major dance contest in order to keep the house they call home from being repossessed, forcing them on to the street. You knew that already though; that’s how they always go.
Having seen enough dance movies, I also know that ultimately, it is about the dancing. With routines ranging from breaking and hip-hop to tango and parkour, “Step Up 3” definitely steps up the dance factor. (I’ve not caught the first two films in the series so I cannot say if it is any better this time out.) It is also the first film to be originally shot in 3D since all those blue people ran amok last year. Some of the dancing pops a little harder but today’s dance films need to be so choppy in order for the intended audience to grab on to them, that the dancing itself sometimes gets lost in the editing. The “Mickey Mouse” 3D here barely seems able to keep up with the dancer’s movements and could be be ringing in a new wave of extremely commercialized 3D films. Sloppy college kids walking off the screen and toward me in packs is not cool; it’s just a frightening sign of things to come. But damn those new Nikes look good on all those pretty young people’s feet.
Review by Joseph Bélanger