I went to see an early Step Up 3D screening expecting the worst dance/teen flick since Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo.
I mean, these are actual lines in the movie:
“people dance because dance can change things”
”One move… can set a whole generation free”
‘Some people learn to dance, some people are born to”
“the most important decisions in life are hard”
But hey, it was a free screening. Why not check it out? Step up 2 filmed in my area of Baltimore Maryland and I did some work on the set. ( I also did work on High School Musical)I was eager to see what Director Jon M Chu did with Step Up 3D. He really loves dancing and the culture of street dancing, whether it be funk, hiphop, or traditional studio dances. On the set of Step Up 2 he did an impromptu audition for all the extras and cast my friends Alex and Keith in a scene that was used in all the promotional materials and trailers. So this is a guy with a passion for dance and since Step Up 2 was fairly successful and won many awards, I was hoping Disney would grant him more creative control of the 3rd film.
What follows contains minor spoilers. For those that do not want the full visceral and intellectual experience of Step Up 3D ruined, you may want to stop reading now.
To start off, the leads of Step Up 2, Brianna Evigan and Rob Hoffman are not in this film. This is left unexplained. My guess is their characters died in a tragic murder-suicide after a heated argument over who was more dope (actual line in Step Up 2 said by Rob Hoffman to Brianna Evigan: “Don’t worry..they jus’ hatin’ on you cus you dope“).
The film does at least bring back the beloved character of Moose, played by Adam Sevani. He is going to college in New York, and the film starts us off with a dance battle in what appears to be Central Park. Moose wins using the devastating dance move of releasing a bunch of balloons and then finishes it off with the annihilating ego-crushing maneuver of popping some soap bubbles with his fingers.
Thoroughly destroyed and defeated Julien (he’s the bad guy, played by Joe Slaughter..who’s real name sounds a lot scarier than the androgynous name of ‘Julien’) vows revenge on Moose for embarrassing him like that with balloons and bubbles and whatnot. Moose, while running from the police (it’s illegal in New York City to pop soap bubbles in public) runs into the movies new male lead, Luke. (played by Rick Malambri)
Luke leads Moose into his warehouse space, which by New York City standards probably costs about $2,500,000 a month at least, where he has a crew of lost boys who do nothing but dance all day and night. They have the terror-inspiring crew name of ‘The Pirates’.
Then Luke meets apparently mentally unstable Natalie (played by Sharni Vinson) while voyeuristically overseeing the surveillance camera of his dance club (besides owning a multi-million dollar warehouse space, he also owns a nightclub).
The rest of the movie writes itself. The warehouse space is threatened with foreclosure, The Pirates have to win a dance battle in order to pay rent (grand prize is $100,000, in New York city that might cover 1 day of rent in a space that large). Boy loses girl, boy gets girl, people dress up as Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, plaque-infested squirrels decimate the population of New York, and then only one dancer is left alive. Pretty standard dance movie stuff really.
The film’s contender for MTV’s best kiss award 2010 evokes the words of the great author Molly Ringle:
“Ricardo was lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.”
In this scene Natalie and Luke suck down 100 oz ICEE frozen drinks, spit their nuclear fluorescent colored beverages into the wind of a powerful fan which then proceeds to splatter the audience (one wonders how this 3D technology will be abused by the sex industry) and, overwhelmed with teenage passion and lethal levels of High Fructose Corn Syrup, proceed to make out. If this is not the best romantic scene of 2010 I don’t know what is.
Another great scene, although very dark and macabre, involved a delinquent Moose rampaging through a residential neighborhood of New York city, taunting little children, desecrating paintings and robbing people of their delightful hats, all the while dancing to a tune only he can hear inside his tortured and possibly schizophrenic brain with an imaginary friend named Camille. Perhaps it stands for Chameleon, as all of Moose’s forms of psychosis take on many forms. Kudos to Jon M. Chu for ‘going there’ and allowing us to see an additional morose side of the culture of street dancing.
As for the dancing, it is much better than Step Up 2. The dance battles involving the use of dust and water to enhance routines are my two personal favorites. The actual end battle however, is sadly not that impressive. The Pirates resort to the cheap use of gimmicks like Tron costumes and midgets in order to defeat the far superior Babalu crew. Also, there are far too many dancers on both teams to keep track of, and at first it is confusing which side you are supposed to root for.
In one monumental scene during the final battle, Natalie, apparently learning the nature of awe-inspiring dance moves from Moose, jumps. And..get this…lands a PERFECT LANDING (someone off-screen is even heard commenting “perfect landing!”). Seriously it’s amazing..she jumps..time slows down..we see her free herself of the boundless chains of gravity..and then LANDS. PERFECTLY. I can see why she was cast as the lead after executing a dramatic jump. And no, this was not a lame back-flip type jump, not even a somersault or a gainer….no THAT would be predictable and tired. Instead she chose to do the standard “jump” jump you may be familiar with from such activities as jump rope, hop skotch and squashing bugs on your ceiling.
All of these things aside, as a teen dance movie it is actually far above average, delivers really well-executed dance choreography that mixes several genres of dance into one sweaty barrel of monkeys. It is funny, is fun to watch and after leaving the theater you felt like you didn’t waste your money. The 3D is used effectively and the audience cheered several times during the movie. The weak points are atrociously amateur acting by Rick Malambri and Joe Slaughter. However, the effect is comical when those two and Sharni Vinson (Natalie) are in the same scene together, since Sharni is the far more talented actress.
Also I have to give a special mention to the Lombard twins who almost stole the movie. They play Argentinean twins on Luke’s dance crew and add a lot of genuine charm to the movie, and are fantastic dancers to boot.
And congratulations to my friend Danny Nguyen (AKA Atomic Goofball) for his role in Step Up 3D. He auditioned via YouTube and landed a part as one of the crew members of a chinatown crew the Pirates have to battle halfway through the film. He even got a credit at the end. He had a much smaller role in Step Up 2, so it’s nice to see him climb the dance ladder.
Overall score: 7.5/10
Bonus: Here is some footage of the dancing if you aren’t convincd you should see it yet: