I’m disappointed to report that Step Up 3-D does not capture the same magic that Step Up 2 (the Streets) exhibited. I admit that I was not taking notes this time around, so perhaps that kept me from being aware of the deeper thematic elements that I found hidden in the second movie. However, I have to suspect that this final (?) film was simply lacking those qualities.
Where I was excited by the second movie because it seemed quite literally like a “step up” from the original, I am let down here. The second movie turned the original on its head by focusing on the collective vs. the personal, the idea of getting out vs. getting in, etc. See my review of the second film for more on this. I only got the vaguest sense that there is any progressive growth in the themes of this film, the most obvious (and shocking!) one being… you don’t have to dance. Which is not to say that dancing is not awesome – the movie packs in dance scenes like sardines. You’d think that a lame dance flick would benefit from over-loading on dance sequences and limiting the time it spends on its trite story, but unfortunately sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
One of my favorite moments in Step Up 2 came when the group of misfits from the MSA finally met up with rival dance gang 410. The MSA group showed their stuff and were pretty impressive, but then 410 hit the floor and completely blew them out of the water (so to speak – there’s no actual water until the third movie). SU3 doesn’t really give its characters the chance to grow like that. It’s not until the final face-off that our heroes (the Pirates) look as though they are much less practiced than their rivals, and this is only for the sake of an eleventh hour saving grace. Through most of the rest of the film, their skills don’t seem much different from the groups that they are battling against. I got the sense that the only reason that any of their dance-offs were called in their favor was because they were the main characters. Further, the dance moves were less than exciting. Certainly they were intricate and I can imagine that they took hours and hours of practice to get down, but they lacked the charisma of the second film. Again, aside from the final showdown, most of the Pirates’ moves seemed disjointed and unappealing. They spent a lot of time lunging at the camera in order to really utilize the 3-D effect and less time working out a visually appealing dance sequence.
You know what? I take that “there’s no water until the third movie” line back. That was uncalled for and also totally untrue.
But while we’re talking about the 3-D, let’s talk about the 3-D. I do have to give mad props to this film for actually filming in the third dimension, rather than converting hastily at the last second the way a lot of cheap movies are doing these days. While I can’t say that the 3-D effect was used toward a specific or important purpose, I can say that the effect is utilized nearly constantly. There’s rarely a time when bubbles, balloons, birds, dessert treats, shoelaces, water, smoke, light bulbs, and practically anything else you can think of isn’t flying toward the screen. I already mentioned the dancers’ disorienting habit of lunging toward the audience. The over-use of 3-D, added to the numerous dance sequences, make this a great sugar rush of bright colors, thumping music, and amazing movements. It would be hard not to enjoy watching the movie, regardless of its merit otherwise.
But aside from being less thrilling in terms of the dance moves, this third movie also unfortunately loses in terms of story. The first movie was hampered by Channing Tatum’s acting and some of the cliches that it hit, but still managed to surprise me by killing off one of its main characters. The second movie, as we’ve discussed, convinced me that it had more to say than the first glance would have you believe. The third movie is the weakest of them all. The plot is straight out of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, Rent, and likely a hundred other movies. The performance artists’ performing space is going to be shut down at the hands of an evil rich person and they’ve got to win money in order to save it. While this is going on, new girl Natalie is falling in love with our new leader Luke but she harbors a secret which might make them break up for a short time until it is revealed that the secret is not what he thought it was and/or it is not as bad as he thought it was. If this isn’t enough, Moose (the geeky kid from the last movie!) and his friend/girlfriend are having hard times because he is sneaking out to dance without telling her, ditching on all their plans. When will they ever learn? Will they work it out between them? I guess you’ll just have to watch the movie to oh who am I kidding of course they do. In fact, Moose’s friend/girlfriend Camille gets over his lies pretty quickly, but says nothing when he later commits property damage and theft. What does that say about her character?
I could go on forever, but I get the distinct feeling that probably nobody is reading this. Here is my final word on SU3in3D: it’s a decidedly energetic movie which takes the 3-D and runs with it.. but the lack of humanity, although somewhat expected, is still a major disappointment, especially when coupled with the less memorable dance sequences. The movie is a tun-of-fon, but I dunno, maybe I had higher hopes because I remembered too much the way I interpreted SU2 better than it was and forgot that, in reality, it was never really that great.