As I walked out of the newest dance movie, Step Up 3D, after having taken off my glasses and readjusted my eyes to normal lighting, I didn’t know what to say. How could I put into words what I had just seen? I did my best to describe to those around me what I thought was a cinematic abomination and as I did, a fellow critic spoke up and told me I should judge this movie the way one judges martial arts films. Just as you disregard the story in a kung fu movie, he claimed you should do the same here and simply enjoy the dancing. Well, I refuse to do that. One decent positive in an overwhelmingly negative film isn’t nearly enough to warrant even the slightest praise for what could very well be the worst movie of the year.
The story follows Moose (Adam G. Sevani), an upcoming freshman at New York University. His parents have put everything on the line to put him in school and are happy he has decided to give up dancing and pursue an education. But Moose soon discovers giving up his passion isn’t so easy when he beats (serves?) a local dancer after being randomly challenged in the streets. Impressed, Luke (Rick Malambri) takes him under his wing and introduces him to his dance gang, the Pirates. Their crib, what they have deemed “The Vault,” is behind on its mortgage and in danger of being foreclosed. The only way to raise the money is to win the upcoming World Jam and, whaddya know, Moose is just the kid to help them do it.
Full disclosure: I know very little about dance and, frankly, I don’t care to learn. I’ve never enjoyed dancing (at least not without some liquid encouragement in me first) and have never understood the fascination of watching people flail their bodies around in unison. Well, that’s all this thing has to offer. With a cut and paste script and nearly a dozen scenes of random dancing outbursts, I’m not convinced this is even a movie.
I say this because it instead feels like a prolonged episode of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” Its most easily relatable film, at least conceptually, is Vanilla Ice’s Cool as Ice, which was laden with music video-like aesthetics and random song interludes, and God knows that’s no compliment. Step Up 3D is what movies would look like if easily amused children were in charge of Hollywood. It’s the type of film that tests your patience and sucks your soul dry.
Quite simply, it’s a catastrophe. It’s a film that mistakes dancing for macho posturing, as if losing a dance battle had any real bearing on anything meaningful. It’s one of those annoying hipster movies that uses phrases like “off the chain” and creates acronyms to describe its characters. Early in the movie, Luke tells Moose he’s B-FAB—Born From A Boombox. After hearing this, I was wishing neither of them were ever born at all.
Now, I suppose the dancing is ok, but I liken it to a football movie. We only need to see so many football scenes before we get bored. The conundrum here is that, just like an overblown sports picture, there’s too much dancing, but tone it down and the film’s glaring flaws more noticeably shine through.
And they shine bright enough. As expected, the cast was chosen on the basis of their dancing skills more than anything else, but what this results in is acting that would be considered lousy in a home video. Even the director, John Chu, whose only other notable film is Step Up 2: The Streets, is lost behind the camera and spends too much time ensuring that the audience notices the 3D, framing shots so the dancers are coming directly at you. Then factor in the awful attempts at humor and stupid story with asinine plot turns that are played laughably dramatic, like the leaking of the squad’s rehearsal footage to the Internet, and you have an epically bad movie for the ages.
I can say one thing for the Step Up franchise. Time will remember them. When future generations look back at this period in cinema, they will note the swarm of dance movies with which we’ve been bombarded. They will watch and study them and, if society has progressed by then, they’ll laugh. Step Up 3D, more than any other, will serve as the basis for how not to make a movie, dance or otherwise.
Step Up 3D receives 0/5