With Rick Malambri, Adam G. Savani, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner, Keith Stallworth. Directed by Jon Chu. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. 97 minutes.
STEP UP 3D is the third in the “Step Up” series but it’s okay if you haven’t seen the other two. In fact it’s okay if you’ve never even heard of the other two. There’s only one reason to watch this film – assuming you’re not related to anyone in it – which we’ll get to in a moment.
First, if you’re going for the story, don’t waste your time. Moose (Adam G. Savani) and Camille (Alison Stoner) are childhood friends who are starting college together at NYU. Moose loved to dance but he’s promised his family he would settle down and study engineering. On his first day he finds himself in a competitive hiphop situation against the leader of one of the big hiphop groups and shows him up. Luke (Rick Malambri), the leader of a rival group, takes Moose under his wing.
In short order we find out that 1) Luke runs a building where dancers can live and rehearse, 2) he’s five months behind on the mortgage and is about to lose it, and 3) there’s a dance competition coming up with a big cash prize. If you think you know where this is going, you probably do. Extra points if you can figure who Luke and the gang will face at the final showdown, with a bonus if you can plot the character trajectory of Luke’s girlfriend (Sharni Vinson) once you learn about her background.
You also won’t want to go for the acting which ranges from blandly likable to downright annoying. There’s no one here who is likely to be thanking the Academy in the future, or talking about what big influences Meryl Streep or Al Pacino were on their careers. Nor is the 3D worth paying extra for, as its barely noticeable much of the time and when it is, its because some dancer is waving his hands toward the camera.
So what’s the reason to see it? If you actually like the hiphop style of dancing, much of the film is given over to energetic displays, although one is hardpressed to say why one group or the other deserves to win. For those not in the know, it seems to be a cross between acrobatics and experiencing a seizure.
As with music, preference in dance styles is a generational thing, and fans of hiphop performance are welcome to it. Those of us who are outside the target audience can simply be grateful.
“Step Up 3D” (which is, indeed, available in a 2D version) is a movie that is so formulaic, badly written, and awkwardly acted it has no reason to exist but for two previous “Step Up” films – it’s now a franchise – and viewers willing to forgive everything else if they can enjoy the dance numbers. If you put up with the last two, you’ll probably put up with this one as well. If you haven’t seen the others you can give this a try if you absolutely must. And if you can’t think of a good reason to go, you probably shouldn’t.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.