Movie Rating: 3 out of 5
If there’s anything to be learnt from predecessors Step Up (2006) and Step Up 2: The Streets (2008), it’s that plot, acting and dialogue all take a backseat to taut choreography and even tauter bodies. After all, the franchise hasn’t exactly set its sights on creating Oscar-winning material.
What we’re getting with Step Up 3D is an extended music video with the thinnest of plots weaved in to string it all together. Some of the dance moves are familiar – the head spins, the robot, the pops and locks – but director Jon Chu embellishes these slick dance sequences with eye-popping 3D effects to assault our eyeballs. Neon lights, balloons, water sprays, confetti, and slurpee dribbles over an air vent – Chu seems bent on utilising every 3D gimmick in the book to get our attention.
Familiar faces such as Step Up 2’s Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and Step Up’s Camille (Alyson Stoner) return in this sequel, which revolves around the ‘bright lights, big city’ charm of New York. Having been accepted in engineering at NYU, Moose is supposed to concentrate on his studies and give up dancing, but we all know too well that’s never going to happen.
Barely five minutes into the movie, Moose gets into trouble in a dance-off and meets Luke (Rick Malambri), an amateur film-maker and owner of a private studio cum shelter for a ragtag bunch of nomad street dancers known as The Pirates.
Moose joins the motley crew to take on rival group, The Samurai, in a dance competition, the prize money being the key to saving Luke’s studio from being seized by creditors. Along the way, a romance between Luke and fellow dancer Natalie (Sharni Vinson) blossoms, while Moose finds his friendship with Camille coming under strain when he tries to keep his dancing activities a secret from her.
Throw in a twist (we wouldn’t spoil it for you, but you’ll definitely see it coming), some comic relief, vapid acting from requisite eye candy characters such as Luke and Natalie, and it’s easy to see why the scripting isn’t one of the movie’s shining moments. Attempts to inject the movie with some heart and soul also fall flat on its face, with cliché lines like “The most important decisions in life are never easy,” and “People dance because dance can change things.” The movie sags mid-way when the narrative aspects are pushed to the forefront, but thankfully, Chu keeps these to a minimum.
The dance sequences are worth the price of admission though. Gravity-defying flips, parkour-esque rooftop runs and martial arts-style capoeira dance moves mix things up, and 3D enhances every detail. Watch for the jaw-dropping dance number on a flooded floor, a whimsical Fred Astaire “I Won’t Dance” sequence with Moose and Camille that was filmed in one continuous tracking shot, and an LED light show dance finale at the World Jam. Step Up 3D has its cheesy and over the top moments, but the movie is entertaining nonetheless if you check in your brain at the door.