Step Up 3D
Sorry, Twihards, these shirtless men are NOT werewolves.

Theatrical Release Date: 08/06/2010
Director: Jon Chu
Cast: Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner, Keith Stallworth, Kendra Andrews, Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, Facundo Lombard, Joe Slaughter

It’s no secret: 3D movies are what distributors crave (for their inflated ticket prices) and what audiences apparently want (because they keep paying those inflated ticket prices). Now hopefully consumers are beginning to realize that there’s a HUGE difference in a movie filmed in 3D (“Avatar“) versus one converted to 3D (“Clash of the Titans“).

On the positive side, “Step Up 3D” was filmed in 3D; none of that nasty converted business. However, this brings about another important issue of the technology: Do the filmmakers know how to take advantage of that extra dimension? In the case of this third installment in the dance battle franchise, the answer is a simple and unequivocal “NO”.

Director Jon Chu (who helmed the second film in the series) does a great job of capturing the dancing but all of the 3D is gimmicky, whether it’s hand gestures pushed towards our faces, water splashed “onto your glasses”, or drops of ICEE floating up into the air as two of our leads stand over a subway vent before locking lips for the first time (don’t even get me started on this scene).

Then there’s the ridiculous camcorder view, wherein we get to see what the main character is shooting as part of his quest to become a filmmaker. Here, the framing guidelines of the camcorder are digitally created 3D components and the “action” being shot is completely 2D. “Lame” is far too kind a word for this idea.

Sadly, if someone had asked me, I’d have said this was a converted 3D film. Many crowd and motion shots were a bit blurry and more likely to induce a headache than anything else. And I belabor this point about 3D in movies not to be a spoil sport but because I care. I like the idea of 3D and when it’s done well (“Coraline“), the result can be the immersive experience that enhances the film; rather than the showy fad most projects are at this point in the technology cycle.

As for the film itself, I doubt it comes as any surprise that you’re not plunking down your money to see an innovative or complex story, filled with quality performances or buoyed by a well-written script. No, this is essentially “Fame” but centered solely on dance.

Fans of “So You Think You Can Dance” will recognize a number of former contestants and Adam Shankman (choreographer/film director/SYTYCD judge) is one of the executive producers. In relation to the dance sequences, everything is well choreographed and the talent level for pulling off all the moves is remarkable.

The film does have some story points and attempted character developments but all of them are merely stumbling blocks that serve as opportunities to use the restroom before the next dance setup. I can forgive this because the “script” is so thin and useless that it isn’t long before the dancers have stopped talking and thankfully returned to contorting/flexing/rotating/flipping their bodies in ways that make the jaw gape.

A straight up series of dance battles would have been far more entertaining but thanks to the heavy dose of choreography and wise decision to barely try to hold it together with a story I can freely recommend “Step Up 3D” to anyone who loves shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” or “America’s Best Dance Crew”. A 3 out of 5, it fulfills the most important element and is the most watchable of the franchise (the others tried too hard to be anything other than a series of dance scenes).

Keep in mind though that if you have the choice, 2D is a much better choice here, none of the dancing was made more impressive by tired attempts to break the extra plane and who doesn’t like saving a few bucks? (And if you’re that intent on throwing your money away, I’ve got a retirement fund that could use more padding.)