August 12, 2010

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Step Up 3D (PG-13)
Some kids who look like the kids in previous Step Ups plus a few kids who actually were in the previous movie pop-and-lock their little hearts out in Step Up 3D, a giddily earnest dance-is-my-life movie that unnecessarily jumps right off the screen at you.

Unnecessarily and blurrily. The nifty robot movies and slow-mo approximation that make this style of dance-battle dancing so much visual fun do not translate well into the in-your-face third dimension. At best, it looks like digitally modified pop-ups of the people are shooting at you. At worst, it looks like there is another screen, two feet in front of the actual screen, that also has some images on it.

Dance movies already have a third dimension — a cheese axis. No need to add to that.

Moose (Adam G. Sevani), the loveable curly-haired goof from the second movie, is here headed to his freshman year at NYU with Camille (Alyson Stoner), a character who was apparently also in an earlier Step Up but of whom I have no memory. She’s eager to get on with her non-dancing-future, but when Moose accidentally gets sucked into a dance battle in Washington Square Park, he’s quickly and delightfully sucked into the dance crew the Pirates and their death battle with the House of Samurai. Luke (Rick Malambi) is the head of the Pirates, who live and practice in a building called The Vault, a building his parents bequeathed him and whose payments he’s behind on. Naturally, the rich guy leader of the Samurai is threatening to buy it at auction, a fate Luke can only prevent if the Pirates — let’s say it together — Win the Big Dance Competition.

Not only does Luke look vaguely like the boy from the first Step Up, he gets romantically and danceily involved with Natalie (Sharni Vinson), a girl who looks pretty much exactly like the girl at the center of Step Up 2. Let’s bring everybody, sorta, back, this movie seems to say. Plus the funny kid. Plus many dance battles. Plus the wacky Asian girl from the second movie. Plus an emotional climax that involves one character pouring her heart out while dressed up like Mary-Kate-and-Ashley (yes, I know they are technically two people but, really).

All in 3-D.

That Step Up 3D isn’t particularly “good” is kind of irrelevant to what a tasty treat of a guilty pleasure it is. The movie succeeds as such exactly because it doesn’t wink at its lousiness and instead earnestly tells us once again that you’ve got to follow youre passion, be it dancing or documentary film, but especially if it’s dancing. The use of 3-D here is, strictly speaking, lame but it also works — if you’re aiming to create the biggest, orangest piece of cheese you can, why not have it poking out of the screen? B

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Directed by Jon Chu and written by Amy Adelson and Emily Meyer from characters by Duane Adler, Step Up 3D is an hour and 37 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Disney Studios.