Theatrical Review: Step Up 3D

I used to make fun of these movies.

Yep, I just had no appreciation for them whatsoever, and so they were something that I just made fun and had contempt for.

That all changed a few years ago when Fox premiered So You Think You Can Dance. Now here’s the deal, I had no intention of ever watching this show when it premiered. American Idol had just finished another season, and I was ready to move on. The day that SYTYCD started, I had just gotten a a new DVR from my cable company and along with getting that DVR, I was also now getting High-Def access. I got this late in the day, and so once it was all installed, I was flipping around to see what I could see in glorious HD. SYTYCD was just starting and I kept the TV on that channel for the first audition and man… it just struck me the same way that a great painting does, this dancer I saw in action was a beautiful piece of live action art.

So I continued to watch the show, and just got hooked. Every episode, I always see something that’s just absolutely amazing. The panel of judges, always headed by Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe, just had a great and positive energy about them and always handed out praise and constructive criticism to their contestants. The show’s host, Cat Deeley, is to me, a positively magnetic personality and she does a fantastic job hosting this show. She’s, in my eyes, the best of the hosts of the various talent shows that are on the air now.

But the main thing that got to me about the show was just it’s sheer celebration of it’s artform, encompassing all forms of dance. On American Idol, I’d actually grow to actively dislike some of their contestants, but that rarely happened with SYTYCD (only once so far). There’s a lot of joy to this show, and even for someone with two left feet like myself, there’s a lot to appreciate. And this went even further, because I started watching America’s Best Dance Crew as well, and that just gave me even more to appreciate.

Adam Shankman has been one of the regular judges on the show for the last two seasons and I knew he was one of the producers of the Step Up movies. Because of that, I eventually saw both Step Up and Step Up 2 The Streets on cable and had a pretty good time with them. On top of that, it doesn’t hurt that Shankman was behind this year’s Oscar broadcast, delivering what I thought was the best Oscar show that I’d seen in a long time.

So, when I finally saw the trailer to Step Up 3D, I was finally ready to want to see one of these movies theatrically. When this opportunity came up through The Trades], I jumped at the chance to go see it. Recently on SYTYCD, Cat Deeley said something to the effect that Step Up 3D is the kind of movie that their viewers should go see, and I have to say, she’s absolutely right.

Step Up 3D starts with one of the characters from Step Up 2 The Streets, Moose as he’s about to start college at NYU. Everyone thinks Moose has this dancing thing out of his system and now he’s ready to start his life in the real world and concentrate on his studies to be an engineer. Well, right off the bat, Moose inadvertently gets involved in a dance showdown with a member of a dance group called The Samurai, and Moose pretty much schools this guy. Moose catches the eye of Luke, a budding filmmaker who has his own dance crew called The Pirates and right away, Luke drafts Moose into his crew. But Luke and his crew have their own problems. The building that they’re staying in is about to be foreclosed on and their only chance to save the building is to compete against the top dance crews in epic B-Boy battles. At the same time that Luke is showing Moose around the building, a young lady named Natalie catches Luke’s eye with her own moves. Now Luke has what he needs to put his crew on the map and save their building… though it won’t quite be that easy.

Now, Step Up 3D won’t win any awards for originality in it’s story, but really that’s OK, it’s story acts as a frame for some really spectacular dance sequences. When it comes right down to it, if you’re going to see this movie, that’s really what you’re wanting to see and director Jon M. Chu really delivers the goods.

But coming back to it’s story, yeah, it’s heavily derivative, the characters are pretty shallow and there’s a few holes that you could drive a truck through, but y’know, it just didn’t bother me. You’ve got a very amiable cast at work here (even if they are shallow) and more than anything else, like SYTYCD, it’s a celebration of dance and for fans of this, that will probably suffice, it certainly did for me.

Chu’s shooting this almost like a classic Technicolor musical. There’s a kaleidoscope of bright colors and exquisite detail in every single shot. The dance numbers themselves are mostly shown full on and though there are some cuts, those cuts are spare making you feel like you’re watching a live show more often than not.

And it’s all presented in beautiful 3D! Yeah, there’s a lot of bellyachin’ going on these days about the overuse of 3D in movies and for a lot of those productions, I’m right there with you. But when something like this comes along that’s specifically shot for 3D and takes full advantage of it, well that’s when the pluses of 3D loom large. This isn’t tacked on 3D by any means and it works on both ends creating immersive environments as well as giving you that reach out and touch it effect. For me, this is the best live-action 3D that I’ve seen in a movie so far.

While this movie won’t win any acting awards, I still thought that our main three characters, Luke, Natalie and Moose were likable characters and actors Rick Malambri, Sharni Vinson and Adam Sevani certainly look good and do serviceable jobs. There are a few SYTYCD alum in the cast as well, most notable being Season 4’s winner Joshua and one of the finalists from Season 6, Legacy. The one that’s a real treat to see though is from Season 4 and this year’s All-Star cast and that’s Stephen “tWitch” Boss. For my money, tWitch is the best pure performer that I ever saw on the show. In this current season, he had one of the real standout moments with a routine that he performed with early favorite Alex Wong choreographed Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo (do yourself a favor and check this out on Youtube). tWitch is pure support here, and while he’s not given the chance to stand out like he does on SYTYCD, it’s still a genuine pleasure to see him in this film and I just hope that he gets the chance to do more in the future (and maybe even more than just dance, I thinks he’s got those kind of chops).

So if you’re a fan of dance and musicals, by all means see this (it’s not just Hip-Hop in this movie, there’s also a nice ballroom number and a terrific salute to the type of thing that Gene Kelly would do later in the film) and see it in 3D. This 3D doesn’t disappoint in the slightest and thanks to the talent of director Jon Chu and his fine cast of dancers, you’ll see some things here in live action that will rival some of the more ambitious mechanical and digital effects of other movies. If you’re not a fan… well, a few years ago, I wasn’t either and I’ve certainly had my eyes peeled in recent years. Step Up 3D could go a long way to giving others a big appreciation for the art of dance.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

08. August 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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