Step Up 3D (PG-13) BUY THE:Poster!
The irony of the dance series known as Step Up is that with each successive film, whatever passes for story becomes all the more shallow and trite--and the movies as a whole actually get better. And this third installment boasts not only the thinnest plot yet (group of ragtag nomad dancers in NYC enter dance championship to save their warehouse home), but the most exciting and spectacular performance numbers the series has ever seen and that have been seen in any film in recent years--and indeed helping director John M. Chu (back from the last installment, Step Up 2 the Streets) achieve that is shooting the film with 3D cameras (none of that crappy post-production 2D conversion as seen in films such as Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender). The image pops in a good, vibrant way, and while Chu can't help but indulge in some shameless gimmicks (bubbles, balloons, styrofoam pellets, and even streams of ICEE are among the things that spill out into the audience), they also make for some clever production numbers. Just about every number is a showstopper, from an early battle that uses generous amounts of LeBron James-esque powder throwing; to a spectactular water number; to an insane LED light-and-laser-filled finale. But the true asset of the 3D is highlighted in what for me was the most impressive set piece, a long, single take Astaire homage between Step Up 2 the Streets returnee Moose (Adam Sevani) and his best friend (Alyson Stoner)--by putting the viewer right there on the floor (or, in this case, street) with the dancers, one really appreciates the intricacies of the choreography and graceful execution, and Chu is smart enough to shoot everything simply and coherently, letting the added third dimension up the energy later rather than the usual crutch of frenzied quick cutting. The 3D also makes the dance battles that much more immersive, making the viewer become a competitor in the showdowns with all the quick, sharp moves literally coming at you. Cynics would dismiss this film as dance porn, and it's hard to argue against that; but the dancing talent on display and the creativity of the choreography make this exactly the fun, unpretentious, celebratory spectacle of dance it is meant to be.