Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Step Up 3D" Review

I’m still not certain the “Step Up” films take place in the real world. Dance is so important to the characters that inhabit this plane of reality that I barely recognize it. Is every move a metaphor? “Battling” surely seems a surrogate for a fistfight, while love is manifested with more delicate gymnastics. Context regardless, the seriousness with which they approach their art is unshakable. Conversely, as someone who finds their rhythmic jiving inherently silly—Yes, I saw “Step Up 3D” ironically. My recommendation, however, is anything but.

I honestly can’t imagine it disappointing anyone. If you’re a fan (in any capacity) of the previous two films, well, you’re in for a treat. Part three was shot in 3D (as opposed to converted post-production) and looks terrific. The image depth is deep and convincing, and even when the effect is applied as a gimmick, its exactly what a film like this needs. The plot revolves around a series of escalating dance-offs, and I can’t see the ridiculousness of some of these sequences having the same impact flattened. The cinematography is clearly built with glasses in mind; see it in 3D or don’t see it.

That may seem a rash proclamation, especially for those who really haven’t come around on 3D yet. But as with Cameron’s “Avatar,” the quality differential between those films conceived and designed for the medium and those that tack it on in the eleventh hour is vast. Plus, the “Step Up” films were always sort of a gimmick. Regardless of whether your interest in the franchise is ironic or legitimate, you’re not in the seat for great storytelling—You want to see some suckas shake it out.

A lot of time, that desire is satiated at the expense of clear lapses in logic and tall caricatures—“Step Up 3D” is no exception. The way these bizarre human beings behave is often as crazy as their dance skillz, and to top it off, the film suffers from Dual Protagonist Disorder. It’s a benign case, but there’s really no accounting for it. We’re introduced to “Moose” (Adam G. Sevani), an incoming NYU freshman who gets swept up in the underground dancing scene, and who may be the last hope for a crew known as the Pirates, whose dance dojo (get this) is in danger of being reclaimed by the bank. Ignoring the readymade plot, we then switch gears, following Luke (Rick Malambri), the dojo’s master, in his quest not only to lead his team to victory in “the biggest battle ever” and score $100,000, but to connect with a mysterious, voluptuous stranger, and become a filmmaker (?).

Alternating between the two stories, audience empathy is split, and they each end up with a half share. It works when they’re dancing, or better yet dancing together, but “Step Up 3D” suffers when it tries to bring plot to the forefront. The last half-hour in particular drags when mouths start to move faster than feet. Shut up and dance, you idiots!

Nevertheless, you really can’t lose sight of intention here. Of course the 3D “Step Up” isn’t a great movie. It’s easy to hate for all its flashy vacuity, but like I said, it might very well be impossible to be disappointed by. Going through my checklist, I got exactly what I expected, not the least of which was some truly accomplished (re: ludicrous) dancing photographed impressively in 3D. But the most impressive thing about it is that even in snidely seeking it out for my own derisive enjoyment, it delivered. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why; the point is—It’s fun.


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