Take away the 3D from Step Up 3D and what you're left with is, wait for it Step Up.
It's the same movie as the earlier "gotta dance" over-choreographed crunk-and-breakdance epics. Exactly the same.
Well, stripped of any hint of edge or sex appeal.
This is a Step Up about making a movie like Step Up. That's what Luke ( Rick Malambri), a dancer, does with his "family" -- a collection of happy feet misfits who live in The Vault, the dance commune he's set up in his late parents' warehouse in New York. There's a padded mosh pit, rehearsal space adorned with a wall of boom boxes, and "the shoe room" where all manner of high-top sneakers are there for dancers to use.
But Luke, in the film's most interesting (and opening) moments, interviews his "Pirate" crew on video.
"Why do you dance?"
"When you dance, you are free," one replies. They're all "born for a boombox," or BFABBM, as Luke puts it.
Moose ( Adam G. Sevani from Step Up 2 The Streets) is one such soul. He's new to NYU, set to study engineering, but called to dance by an impromptu battle. That insults the House of Samurai (Yeah, the names sound like "design" houses for drag queen contests), but earns the attention of the House of Pirates.
Moose, a cross between Harpo and Chico Marx, finds himself torn between engineering and dancing.
Because the Pirates need to win the big Dance Battle (see earlier Step Ups, or any other break-dancing movie) to win the cash to save The Vault. They need Natalie (Sharni Vinson), a lithe super dancer who wins Luke's attention. Moose might even need the best friend he keeps dissing -- Camille ( Alyson Stoner from Camp Rock and Phineas and Ferb).
Because all the popping and locking of the Santiago Twins, The Ticks and the rest of the crew won't be enough. Evil Julien (Joe Slaughter), Kid Darkness (super-dancer Daniel "Cloud" Campos) and the Samurai crew have the numbers and have their number. Or do they?
The dancing here is dazzling. Director Jon Chu (he did the last Step Up as well) stages the battles with an over-the-top flair, from an impromptu dance-off in Washington Square Park that climaxes with clouds of bubbles, then clouds of balloons swooping through the 3D screen, to a battle with crews covered in clouds of dancer's chalk, and a water show that rivals the splashes of Flashdance.
The training sequence incorporates parkour, with dancers sprinting, leaping and clambering over Greenwich Village rooftops. A trip to a tango party is what passes for sex appeal in this Disney clean dance movie.
But check out the flags and pennants fans wave in the background of the big contest at the end. They look like people on ancient newsreels, celebrating the return of the Doughboys from WWI -- flickering by too fast for reality. In other words, the dance bits have been sped up to make the performances seem superhuman.
And seriously, who knew you could grow corn in the middle of Greenwich Village?
The 3D adds in-your-face impact to some of the numbers, turns into a gimmick at other moments (Slurpees spilled and suspended in mid air over a subway grate) but doesn't hide the fact that this is no Step Up at all -- merely a dance movie franchise that's been breaking and sweating in place pretty much from the start.
See for Yourself
Step Up 3D
Cast: Rick Malambri, Sharni Vinson, Adam G. Sevani, Alyson Stoner
Directors: Jon Chu
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Industry rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times