In spite of the best efforts from the writers to give their most passionate story, one thing they do achieve is making the character of Moose something of a more dignified and empathic underdog hero. In a film series filled with pretty people, it’s refreshing to see the screenwriters working toward making Adam G Sevani something of an entertaining and complex individual. Here instead of making us laugh, he’s given much more dramatic material however cliche it may be. He found a new crew, he’s working at his education, his blossoming romance with his friend Camille, and confrontations with dance crews all the while remaining something of a secret weapon for his crew The Pirates. When the character is on the dance floor, all essence of his geekiness established in “Step Up 2” is diminished.
Sevani’s performance is much more downplayed and admirable this time around as a guy with an actual personality who is not afraid to show how bad ass he is while dancing. When confronted by a rival crew in a bathroom he maneuvers his way around their attacks, and manages to completely outshine everyone in his first dance off in New York Square. And did I mention the water dance? What can I say, the pseudo-street edge touched something in this ghetto dweller. For all of its major flaws, “Step Up 3D” features remarkable dance sequences and utterly incredible choreography that I found myself enjoying thoroughly. It’s not often a movie can make up for its vast short comings by dance sequences, but somehow where the film lacks in everything else, it keeps our attention through some of the most incredible dance scenes I’ve seen in years. Whether it’s the Samurai performing his coveted robot move (which is much better than it sounds, trust me), or other crews enlisting stepping and flying all over the screen defying gravity, the sequences where rival crews battle one another on the floor are just remarkable and sharply edited.
Chu is at his best when staging the dancing without a doubt. Implementing props for the obvious 3D addition, Chu never misses a beat showcasing one female dancer’s swift hand movements for the camera, while Sevani takes center stage in a brutally entertaining impromptu water dance where he must make up moves on the spot with The Pirates and it’s fantastic. I’m not ashamed to admit the movie kept my attention and had me smiling wide through all of the performances. And I was riveted through the climactic dance competition featuring children and strobing jacket lights. Fantastic! Simply fantastic! Like it or not, the “Step Up” movies have been something of a very successful and easily marketable franchise that started something of a trend. Its multiracial cast matched with its easily imitatable dance sequences and simplistic inoffensive storyline have appealed to audiences of all kinds from young women, to urban crowds, and aspiring dancers.
Sadly, the “Step Up” movies, while terrible, aren’t the worst things in theaters right now. “Step Up” had a considerably lame melodramatic premise, but “Step Up 2” managed to be a sharper and more endurable little dance flick that side stepped its romance narrative in exchange for a series of rather well directed dance sequences, one of which sets down on to a parking lot during a severe but well lit rain storm. “Step Up 3D” is a cheap and dull little follow-up with the same basic paper thin premise and a series of dance montages that could easily be cut out and considered music videos without missing a beat. After a self-important prologue that’s anxious to convince its audience they’re watching something more than a cheap cash-in, director John Chu makes a crafty move of enlisting Alyson Stoner as the lead this time around.
Stoner is something of a music video regular, known for skillfully dancing in major videos, now leading the charge here in her rightful place as the stock heroine who happens to dance like nobody’s business. Moose returns from “Step Up 2” (i.e. the only character they could afford to bring back) growing in to the major supporting character this time around as a dancer inadvertently pulled in to the underground world of… dancing. If there exists such a thing. Cue in vogue soundtracks from Alicia Keys, and director Chu shows fans of the films how much of a fan he is of montages. Montage after montage after montage does the work of the screenwriter establishing just about everything while both writers churn out about as many dance related one-liners as possible where every twenty minutes a character declares dance to be a way of life/a state of mind/the answer to world peace and… really does anyone who went to see this give two damns about any of the characters?
Moose is embroiled in a turf battle that involves hot moves and zero punches, a dancer named “Samurai” wants to challenge the main crew for ownership of the club, Luke, the leader is trying to save the club from being closed, and he romances the enigmatic Natalie who is a dancing ninja. Literally. She can zap back and forth in the club. The sub-plots scattered throughout “Step Up 3D” are nothing you haven’t seen before, and I guarantee the only thing you’ll talk about when you finish are the dance battles. But then that’s the purpose of these films, like it or lump it. The “Step Up” franchise is the modern “Breakin’,” or “Krush Groove,” a series of cinematic twinkies that will be regarded as guilty pleasures fifteen years from now recollecting the ancient dance moves and the hot women and nothing more. “Step Up 3D” is a major notch above its predecessors if only for its magnificent dance sequences and skillful choreography, but that doesn’t mean you should invest time in it… or its impending follow-up “Step Up 4 The World.” Unless your significant other promises a reward after the movie is over.