When I reviewed the Step Up 2: The Streets DVD back in 2008, here were my parting words: "The word is that Step Up 2: The Streets made enough to justify a third film in the series. I’m sure it will somehow involve a street kid and a rich kid coming together to show everyone how the power of dance and nice abs can bring people together. Hopefully that DVD will show up on someone else’s door." Naturally, “that DVD” -- Step Up 3 -- showed up on my door.
The first scene in the mediocre dance sequel, Step Up 3, is surprisingly low key and enjoyable. A group of twenty-somethings are videotaped explaining why they love dance. The dialogue, which may well have been scripted, feels real. As though the actor/dancers, who later are the highlight of this half-a-movie, are talking about themselves, rather than being characters. You see the joy they get in dancing and why they do it. You want this video thing to go on forever, but it’s pretty brief. Unfortunately, in the very next scene, Step Up 3 becomes its unrealistic and slick natural self.
The film’s plot exists almost solely to get the dancers (an amazingly talented group) from one street dance competition to another. The whole point is to show off some incredible dancing that makes you wonder why your body won’t do the things the dancers in this movie can do. When Step Up 3 has its cameras trained on the dancing and the high-energy routines, it’s a really enjoyable thing to watch. When it goes back to the plot, the love story, the acting, it just makes you wish it were over soon. I found myself wishing I could fast forward the “talking” to get to the good stuff. It’s like a porn where the money shot is 15 dancers in semi-synchronized mayhem throwing themselves around a dance floor, warehouse floor, any floor.
Not having moved much away from the old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney “let’s put on a show to save grandpa’s farm” plot devices, the screenplay brings you The Pirates, a multi-cultural dance group that lives and practices in “The Vault,” owned by Ashton Kutcher look-a-like Luke (Rick Malambri). The building is in danger of foreclosure, and his arch-enemy, Julien (Joe Slaughter), leader of a rival dance crew called The Samurai or the Warriors or something, is prepared to buy it and throw out the Pirates. So it’s imperative that they win a $100,000 dance contest to pay off the bankers and save the farm…err…Vault. Despite having an awesome group of dancers, Luke brings in some new discoveries: Moose (Adam G. Sevani), an NYU engineering freshman who has put all this “crazy dance stuff behind him,” or so his father hopes, and Natalie (Sharni Vinson), whom Luke hopes will dance just for him one day (that is, he will get into her dance sweats.)
So they are off to the big show, winning preliminary dance battles along the way. Many complications and betrayals ensue, but, of course, it all ends with The Pirates losing and getting evicted. Not really! It ends with you going, “Wow, those dance battles were incredible, I wish the rest of the movie wasn’t so stupidly lame.” Or maybe you don’t use the word lame, but my point is, while the dancing is really great, the rest is really not. Plus it presents a New York world that is super-sanitized for your protection. It doesn’t feel anything close to real.
The movie was presented in theaters in 3D, and there is a 3D Blu-ray, but this particular version is not in 3D. It does look like many of the dance battles would be cooler in 3D, as I found myself going, “Well, they must have done that for 3D quite a few times." Still, even without the 3D, the dances are well shot and you can tell there is quite a bit of talent on display. Sevani doesn’t seem to have joints or the law of gravity applying to him; he’s just fun to watch. Everyone is...as long as they are dancing, not talking.
If you love the kind of crew dancing featured, you’ll think you have died and gone to heaven. Also, if you thought Twilight had a good plot and was well acted, you’ll be fine with what you see here. If you’re looking for a non-derivative film with an interesting plot and good acting, keep looking.
As noted in the film section, there is a Step Up 3D version out on Blu-ray, but this version only has the 2D version on Blu-ray along with a DVD. I don’t know what the 3D looks like on Blu-ray, but it’s clear many shots were designed for 3D, and you might get more out of it by grabbing that version if you're set up to view it.
However, even if you do eschew the 3D, you will be pleasantly surprised by the extras, which are, frankly, a more enjoyable way to experience the best of the movie without actually sitting through the movie. The video within a movie called “Born from a Boombox” is shown in an extended 11-minute version that is, again, very “true” seeming. Not when they interview Natalie and Luke, but all the secondary dancer characters sound like they are talking about themselves and not their characters. Plus, you see dance scenes from the movie from different angles, which is cool.
Since the dance battles are the best part of the movie, you get the opportunity to experience “Extra Moves,” which is just unused dance footage that was shot but apparently not used, backed by no dialogue (yeah!) but just some of the songs used in the movie. The dancing, again, is amazing and well shot. There are also additional dance scenes in the 25 minutes of deleted scenes. There are also some talking scenes, so choose wisely. Director John Chu, who seems like a nice guy and I feel bad ragging on his film, introduces each deleted scene.
Going along with the target audience of this movie, there are eight music videos. If that’s not enough, there is also a “Making the Music Videos” feature. My guess is if you are a big fan of the movie, you are probably a big fan of the groups on the soundtrack and will enjoy the videos, but otherwise you’ll want to skip.
I feel that by watching the “Born from a Boombox,” “Extra Moves,” and selected deleted scenes, you could get the flavor and best parts of the movie without actually having to sit through the boring plot and mediocre acting. However, if you have enough interest in doing even that, you are probably going to watch the movie anyway. I think you’d be smart to just do the “Cliff Notes” version.