Movie Review: STEP UP 3-D (2010)

Directed by Jon Chu
Starring Rick Malambri, Adam Sevani, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner

It seems to be a rule of the thumb that teen dance and music flicks have to follow certain guidelines and regulations. One of the main characters has to be nerdy or shy, only to undergo a dramatic transformation by the end of the film. The main characters just have to be reasonably attractive. There will be a villain having no motive in life but to bring down said main characters (and he might have one or two sidekicks to do his evil bidding). There will be misunderstandings and obstacles, causing the group of good guys to disband, only to be brought back together near the ending after a unanimous epiphany that they can’t do without each other. The guy will get the girl eventually (or vice versa, depending on who’s initially after whom), ending the whole film in a classy kiss. And most important; if there is a competition or something of the sort involved in the story: The Good Guys. Always. Win. ALWAYS.

Since these films, in most cases to say the least, are limited by these guidelines, there is no room for any uncertainty. There is no room for suspense. There is no room for guessing what’s going to happen next as you, quite surely, already know what’s going to happen. And as a result, there is no cause for interest or care.

‘STEP UP 3-D’ is almost excessively pedantic with the way it adheres to the clichés of its genre. There is not a single unpredictable bone in its skeleton. This is a story we’ve been told a hundred times before. I haven’t even seen the first two ‘Step Up’ films and I found the plot tiresome, and I’ve been told it’s more or less the same plot all over again.

Aside from being predictable, it’s emotionally immature. The characters aren’t the type of people that occupy the real world—no one in the real world is all-good or all-bad. In ‘Step Up 3-D’, the good-guys group ‘The Pirates’ consists of, well, all-good guys (except for those overly ambitious members who find their way to the all-bad team, ‘The Samurais’.)

There isn’t too much character depth. In fact, the film’s so shallow I don’t feel the need to start describing the characters as they’re all pretty boring. There’s the guy who has to give up dance, but secretly keeps at it (Moose). There’s the girl who is the guy’s just-best-friend, but she’s secretly in love with him (Camille). There’s the team leader who secretly loves filmmaking (Luke). There’s the girl who falls in love with the team leader (Natalie) (betrayals, however, break them apart… but obviously they end up together in the end. Remember the rule?)

But though the characters are boring, I found the actors to be pretty likable. There’s the young Adam Sevani playing Moose, who was pretty good and did the best he could with the material he was given. I enjoyed most of his scenes, and somehow instinctively rooted for him. Camille was played Alyson Stoner, a good young actress who needs to find films better than this one and the ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ flicks. Rick Malambri, who’s a good looking guy, plays Luke, and I see in him a lot of potential to take on more mature, dramatic roles. Sharni Vinson stars as Natalie, and she’s pleasant enough, and she’s eye-candy for all the panting boys too. I wonder, why aren’t the good guys ever ugly? Do you need to look good to be good? Why is that most of the good guys need to be gorgeous? Oh, I know why. Remember the rule?

And if you think the main characters are boring (This is the third time I’ve said that), the bad guys are infinitely more so. They are so excruciatingly uninteresting, they’re almost not even worth mentioning. In these films, they always are. All they wanna do is mess with the good guys. As I write this, I feel the words ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’ would provide me with the air of a good writer more efficiently than ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’, but these characters are so poor they don’t even deserve those words.

By now, you’re thinking one of three things about me: 1. I’m an idiot for hating this awesome dance film. 2. I’m an idiot for judging a dance film based on its emotional power and story telling strengths. 3. I’m right.

If you’re thinking no. 1, you can stop reading right here. No. 2, keep reading, I will explain. No. 3, you’re my new best friend.

It might appear I didn’t like this film at all, but actually I did. Ignoring its major flaws, you’ll actually enjoy it. Why? The oh-so stunning visuals.

The dance sequences are absolutely spectacular. Their choreography is just solid. Some of the steps seemed to defy everything that Newton stated, and what’s more, I’m pretty sure it’s all real, un-aided by the digital touch. There was such an awesome, zestful energy throughout all of the dance sequences, and I was always in admiration of how much practice and dedication must’ve been poured into perfecting all the moves and coming out with those awesome visuals, if not much of a plot.

There were times when I felt the rival group was dancing better than the good-guys group, but what the heck, the good guys won anyways. Always. Remember the rule?

Most of the songs that accompanied the dances were hip-hop and pop, the kinds of song I eagerly avoid on the radio. However, I didn’t mind them here as the dances were superb. There came tiny points of time where I was passively, inattentively staring at the screen as they danced on, but that was only now and then.

If I had to pick out one dance sequence that had me smiling through and through, it wouldn’t be any of the competition rounds, it wouldn’t be the climax… it would be one sweet little sequence in which the two young to-be lovers Moose and Camille dance happily to a remix of Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers on one of the quainter streets of New York. (To know of my musical movie tastes is to know that I am in love with Gene Kelly’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ dance.) Adam Sevani and Alyson Stoner emulated Gene Kelly quite well, making what was one of the more charming sequences in the film. Oh, how could I forget. Just like a lot of Kelly’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ sequence, the whole sequence was carried on in one continuous shot!

While reviewing 3-D films, I generally review the entire film just like I would a 2-D one and then end with a tiny paragraph on how good (or rather bad) the 3-D was. I recommended very lightly the 3-D version of the overhyped ‘Avatar’. I told people to watch the excellent ‘Up’ and the wonderful ‘Coraline’ in 2-D rather than in 3-D. I told people not to watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ regardless of the D’s. And yet, I find myself in an unprecedented position… I find myself recommending to you nothing less than the 3-D version of this film. Watch this film with the glasses on or don’t watch it at all. I’ve seen a great many 3-D films, and I can say that I haven’t seen it used more effectively than in this film.

Normally, 3-D is distraction from the plot, but seeing as this film hasn’t one, that wasn’t a problem. And normally, the 3-D effect wears off ten to twenty minutes into the movie, but not here. There are always the awesome dances to remind you of the 3-D, and that’s not a bad thing. Bubbles, dust, splashing water, party confetti, laser lights, all are utilized to great effect. Who’d have know a group of teenagers dancing on a stage would be more effective than blue motion-captured aliens riding flying creatures?

Do I recommend this film to you? I’m not really sure. If you liked the first two, I reckon you’d love this. I read online it’s got better critical reviews than the first two. If you hate dance movies, I don’t see why you’d need to watch this, save for the choreography and the 3-D.

Before I’m accused of spoiling the movie for you by revealing that they win the competition at the end and that the guys get the girls, let me remind you: you were already supposed to know all that. Remember the rule?

– Cinematic Jackass, signing off 🙂


2 responses to “Movie Review: STEP UP 3-D (2010)

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