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Step Up 3D

A movie directed by Jon Chu

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A New Dimension for a Tired Message

  • Aug 9, 2010
"Step Up" taught us about the redemptive and freeing power of dance. It wasn't a particularly good or original lesson, nor was it a particularly good or original film, but at least what it had to say was clearly stated. "Step Up 2: The Streets" taught us the exact same thing, despite shifting the location from the studios and auditoriums of the Maryland School of the Arts to the streets of Baltimore, where, miraculously, street dancing was at the last minute accepted as a legitimate art form. Now we have "Step Up 3-D," and while the location has changed yet again - from Baltimore to New York City - the message itself hasn't changed at all, and quite frankly, I'm sick of hearing it. I officially get the point; for some people, dancing is the only good thing they have going for them. Now that we've thoroughly established this, can we please find something else talk about?

What annoys me to no end is that the film does more than recycle a message. It also recycles a plot formula and waters it down in the process. This is pretty strange given the fact that there wasn't much of a plot to begin with. The original "Step Up" was basically a low-rent retread of Alan Parker's "Fame," focusing heavily on the choreography and the music but skimping on the maturity and the introspection. In other words, it lacked the sense that we were glimpsing into the lives of real people in real situations. "Step Up 2" went even further in its whittling away of the plot, reducing genuine drama to a contrived dance off between street crews. Now that we have come to "Step Up 3-D," the plot has become so thin and inconsequential that every scene evaporates from our memories, even before they end.

The only exceptions are the dance sequences, which are impressive to say the least. The choreographers, and there are many, stage a number of routines that push the actors to the limits of human endurance; they contort, kick, flip, jump, and spin so intricately, you'd almost swear their bodies were manipulated by computers. And then there's the film's big draw, its presentation in 3-D, which is - and it greatly pains me to say this - the best use of the process since "Avatar." The dancers really did seem to be reaching out of the screen. I actually felt immersed in the environment. The final dance showdown is especially great to look at; apart from the 3-D effects, the heroes were decked out in suits rigged with flashing LED lights and lasers. They looked liked extras from "Tron."

The plot: Robert Alexander III, a.k.a. Moose (Adam Sevani), has moved to New York City to attend NYU with his best friend, Camile Gage (Alyson Stoner), who just happens to be the little sister to Tyler Gage, played in the first and second films by Channing Tatum. Moose wants to major in electrical engineering, but he finds he that misses dancing, and soon enough, he runs into Luke (Rick Malambri), a street dancer who does a little filmmaking on the side. Moose goes off and spends the rest of the film struggling to juggle his academic life with his social life. Luke, meanwhile, lives with a group of nomadic street dancers in a loft/studio once owned by his parents, themselves aspiring dancers before their untimely deaths. Their way of life is threatened by both finances and a rival dance team, who are just plain mean. Into Luke's life enters Natalie (Sharni Vinson), who has great moves and thinks it would be a good idea for Luke to pursue filmmaking.

Would it surprise you to learn that everyone's future depends on winning a dance competition? If you can't see where the plot is going after ten minutes, especially if you've seen the first two films, then I suspect you would actually be surprised by the ending of a "Titanic" documentary or a biopic about Abraham Lincoln. This movie is contrived, clich├ęd, and ultimately unfulfilling, since the ending and everything leading up to it are hopelessly predictable. The thing is, I can say the exact same thing about all the films; the people behind them are so intent on repeating themselves that it transcends mere routine and becomes a form of monomania. I'm pointing a finger directly at Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibot, the only two producers to have been involved in all three films. We get it, guys. Dancing is important to you.

There is one particular scene in "Step Up 3-D" that actually held my attention all the way through. It featured Sevani and Stoner dancing up and down the streets of a New York City neighborhood while a remixed version of Fred Astaire's "I Won't Dance" blares from the speaker of an ice cream truck; it was all done in a single shot, and the two actors never missed a beat. It was a triumph of editing, choreography, and music. Why couldn't the rest of the film be like this? Maybe then, there would have been a good reason for it to have been made. The writers, directors, and producers of the "Step Up" series have told the exact same story three times in a row. How many more will it take for them to finally realize that they have exhausted an already hackneyed idea?

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November 15, 2010
Great review! I love dance flicks and especially, breakdance flicks but, I completely agree with you that the story's a little old. There are different ways to tell a story, and trust me, there are far more interesting ways to tell this one However, the thing I like the best about this series- the dancing (why else watch a dance flick? They're not usually known for interesting plots or intriguing dialogue!) seems to be what you liked best here. I think it's best that I didn't go see this in the theatres, though I'm sure I would've enjoyed seeing the 3-D! Thanks for sharing :)
More Step Up 3D reviews
review by . August 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Step down, please.
STEP UP 3D Written by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer Directed by Jon Chu Starring Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson and Alyson Stoner   “Maybe we’re all plugged in to the same song”   I am not a dancer but I know enough about them and I’ve seen enough episodes of “So You Think You Can Dance” at this point to know that they are some of the hardest working and most passionate artists out there.  Like one of the greatest dancers in …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


Step Up 3D is the third installment in the Step Up film series. The film was directed by Jon Chu, who also worked on the previous film Step Up 2: The Streets. Step Up 3D was released in conventional 2-D, Real D 3D, XpanD 3D and Dolby 3D formats on August 6, 2010. It is also the second movie which features the 7.1 Surround Sound audio format, the first was Toy Story 3.
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Director: Jon Chu
Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: August 06, 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
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"Step down, please."
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