Movie Review: Step Up 3D

Under/over privileged kids just wanna dance

Critiquing a film such as Step Up 3D, the third in the ridiculously successful Step Up franchise, is almost pointless. People do not choose to go to the cinema to see a dance movie unless they genuinely love dance movies. So ripping to pieces the unbearably cheesy plot, nails-down-a-blackboard dialogue, almost universally lifeless or stereotyped characters replete with inexcusably repetitive personalities, all housed precariously in an inner city dream warehouse with a skate ramp in it….would be missing the point.

Except it wasn’t always this way. Dance movies always had a sprinkling of cheese, and a paint by numbers plot with the big dance off denouement, but what films like Footloose, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, or hell, I’ll say it, even Girls Just Wanna Have Fun had, is heart, soul and genuinely strong characters that, creaky-limbed in your chair, you danced along with in your head. You didn’t cringe with horror as one earnest, wooden faced teen tells another “You’re BFAB – Born From a Boombox!”

It’s the subtle difference between a guilty pleasure and a waste of time, and the only thing that saves this film from falling irredeemably into the latter camp is the hip hop soundtrack (featuring a Busta Rhymes classic and T-Pain amongst others), choreography (amped up in 3D), which is faultless, and a central performance from Adam Sevani which, love him or hate him, is the only one worth watching, his genial, adorably ditsy style a cross between Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg.

Sevani reprises his role from Step Up 2 as annoying, yet adorable dance geek Moose, entering his first day of college following the ominous words from Daddy “I’m just glad you’re done with all that dance stuff!”. Which in turn is followed by random dance off in the quad. On the strength of his blistering performance – and he’s genuinely breathtaking – a group of cool dance kids, rejected from society, take him into their over-decorated, yet somehow still stylishly dilapidated gritty urban dwelling, so that they can win the championships, communicate through semaphore (“Everything you need to know about me is in my dancing”), foil the evil dance rival’s evil plans, find true love for their hunky wannabe film director leader (Rick Malambri), learn the value of friendship and perhaps even put some of the “Look how quirky-cool I am!” supporting characters out of their misery with a plié-related fatality.

If you choose to view this film relentlessly optimistically as a cliché drenched unintentional comedy with some brilliant – and heightened through 3D technology – dance routines (“one move can set a whole generation free!”), as opposed to a poorly rendered, yet obviously expensive shell of what the genre once was, this isn’t the worst way to spend a few hours. There is one element that frustrates though – the aggressive excellence of the rival troupes’ routines put the good guys’ moves to shame. A choreographical misstep, perhaps?

Andrea Hubert