The "Step Up" franchise (it burns my fingers to type that) spent two movies trying to dance its way into the hearts of audiences. "Step Up 3" wants to do the robot right into your lap. Taking furious body movement and kindergarten scripting into a new level of gyration, this latest sequel offers a dance clarity that immediately makes it the best of the series. It doesn't take much to climb that mountain of recognition, but there's a bit more pizzazz to devour here, helping to wipe away the ceaseless dramatic stupidity the production seems dangerously proud of.
Off to NYU to study engineering, Moose (Adam Sevani, "Step Up 2 the Streets") has put away his crack-like dancing habits, looking to embrace adulthood with BFF Camille (Alyson Stoner, "Step Up"). However, once arrived, the spirit drives Moose to boogie, which catches the eye of amateur documentarian/dance guru Luke (Rick Malambri), who brings the boy into his Lost Boys lair of dancers, hoping his unique moves will help win an upcoming dance battle. Also keeping Luke busy is Natalie (Briana Evigan lookalike Sharni Vinson), a limber temptress who takes a shine to the wannabe filmmaker, but dark secrets hold her back from truly loving him. As tempers flare, mortgages go unpaid, and Nikes are lusted after, the crew struggles to come together as a unit, looking to Luke and Moose to lead them to victory.
The "Step Up" series has always come across as an updated version of the "Breakin'" pictures, but this second sequel really turns up the electric boogaloo to make an impression. Shot with a certain concentration, the film has a pleasant visual pop that seems a perfect fit for the berserk dance sequences sprinkled throughout the movie. It's a flashy look that director Jon Chu (returning from his "Step Up 2 the Streets" duties) exploits marvelously when the feature catches a wave and dances the night away. The director rolls out plenty of activity to keep the screen alive with whimsical business, finding entertaining ways to position the actors so they'll battle right on the edge of the screen.
"Step Up 3" should have remained in a state of movement, for when the script is attended to the whole film deflates. There's actually a story here of indistinct sincerity, sold by an abysmal cast who have no business in the world of the dramatic arts. The acting is uniformly atrocious, with Sevani a particular screen poison, cursed with a scene-smashing smirk that won't wipe away. The conflict is pure Disney Channel fluff about financial woes, the chasing of dreams, and Nike fetishism (the film is bursting with product placement), but the script doesn't even try to find an edge, serving scripted tripe to unprepared actors, making the dramatic stretches of the movie a real pain to sit through. The feature should've cut footloose and stayed there.
Chu has no real directorial chops to speak of, though he's pushing himself with the dance sequences, sweating to keep the hip-hop heart beating, while tending to his own tastes, which manifest itself in an overtly fanciful moment that features Sevani and Stoner working out a Gene Kelly-style number on the "streets" of New York. Cute, but it's hard to enjoy a piece of the past when the rest of the action is devoted to tuneless rap songs and overly floppy choreography.
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation on "Step Up 3" is one of satisfying clarity. It's a crisp image employed for the film's original 3D theatrical presentation (the greenscreen work is easily spotted), providing fantastic detail on costumes and props, while facial response is equally as textured and alive. Colors are bold, when plenty of pop provided by balloons, street décor, and the battle sequences themselves, which pulsate with rich, flashy hues, emerging from pleasing neon and day-glo sources. Skintones are natural (perhaps a bit too revealing at times), while shadow detail is extremely strong, pulling out pure blacks.
The DTS-HD 7.1 sound mix is, as expected, thumping. Soundtrack selections are serviced fantastically in the disc, filling up the listening experience with a convincing force of beats, well blended with club atmospherics, providing a heightened feeling of activity. Directionals are also employed well, playing out the gyrations and voices with a workable sensation of movement. Exposition is clearly laid out, kept in play despite some massive music cues looking to swallow the listener up. Low-end is alert and supportive, giving weight to the visuals. French, Spanish, and Portuguese tracks are also available.
English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included.
"Born from a Boombox" (11:51) is Luke's film-within-a-film, a documentary short on the dreams of amateur dancers.
"Extra Moves" (7:20) is a featurette capturing what producer Adam Shankman calls "the sickest shizz." In English, that means surplus dance shots.
"Deleted Scenes" (23:57) showcases even more dance moves, a "sneaker montage" and a "sad montage," a moment of team strategizing, restores a subplot featuring a Ugandan character, and returns a few more turns of plot removed to streamline the film. They can be viewed with or without introductions from director Chu.
Music Videos include "Club Can't Handle Me" (from Flo Rida Feat. David Guetta), "My Own Step" (Roscoe Dash and T-Pain Feat. Fabo), "Already Taken" (Trey Songz), "This Girl" (Laza Morgan), "This Instant" (Sophia Fresh Feat. T-Pain), "No Te Quiero" (Sophia Del Carmen Feat. Pitbull), "Irresistible" (Wisin Y Yandell), and "Spirit of the Radio" (JRandall).
"Making of the Music Videos" (7:16) combines the filmmaking effort for all these performances clips into one featurette, using interviews with the musicians to detail song themes and showcase promotional aptitude.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
Growing consumed with negativity watching "Step Up 3" is to be expected, as there's so much malarkey to wade through to get to the good stuff. And the good stuff isn't even that good, merely colorful and outstretched, providing a fleeting, thumpy thrill. One can only hope the next sequel will do away with a story altogether and stick solely to the business of ants in the pants.