Dance movies don't exactly command respect in most cinephiles' circles. Think about it; when was the last time you saw two film lovers discussing the finer points of "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo"? But every now and again a dance film comes along that is so striking, it changes how the genre is viewed.
"Step Up 3D" does exactly that…but in the worst, most negative ways imaginable.
Leaving behind "Step Up"'s previous setting, Baltimore's elite Maryland School of the Arts, returning director Jon M. Chu relocated the third film to New York City's underground dance scene, a world Moose ("Step Up 2: The Streets" star Adam Savani) stumbles into the day he arrives in Manhattan for orientation at NYU. Filling Channing Tatum and Robert Hoffman's studly dance shoes is former model (and obvious non-dancer) Rick Malambri as Luke, a videographer who owns a five-story loft/club/crashpad/dance space/training facility/Nike shoe museum and chronicles Manhattan's best dancers. Gearing up for the biggest dance battle of the year (wouldn't you know it), Luke takes Moose under his wing and instantly falls for club dancer, Natalie (Sharni Vinson), the female lead replacing Jenna Dewan and Briana Evigan.
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Devoid of plot or character development and lacking even a modicum of decent acting, "Step Up 3D" fails on every level. In fact, the only thing elevating the third installment of the "Step Up" franchise from cable-TV-movie-of-the-week status is the fact that it's in 3D.
Unfortunately, that same technology is a major detractor to the film's genuinely impressive dance numbers, as Chu strains for any available reason to exploit the medium, flinging everything from bubbles and balloons to baby powder dust clouds at the audience, when all he needed to do was let the dancers create the spectacle.
Less a movie and more an extended music video (think Paula Abdul and Keanu Reeves in "Rush, Rush"), "Step Up 3D" does offer truly incredible dance sequences, but when you can just as easily watch most of the film's dancers online in LXD (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers) clips, why bother suffering through painful attempts at dialogue and a slap-and-tickle plot that's laughably clichéd?