Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Step Up 3D: Breakin' all the rules and partying all the time!

Step Up 3D is a nearly perfect specimen of a Hollywood dance movie executed with some serious visual flair by director Jon Chu and helped along in no small part by the enormous charisma of one Mr. Adam G. Sevani. – which is probably why it was trashed by almost all of the critics. I understand why, even if I don’t agree.

First of all, the plot is taken directly from several Hollywood dance films with shades of Dirty Dancing, Breaking 2: Electric Boogaloo among others. Secondly, the acting by lead couple Rick Malambri (think a more wooden Ashton Kutcher with a serious lack of dancing ability) and Sharni Vinson (who was only wooden when she wasn’t dancing) left much to be desired. Thirdly, there wasn’t much dialogue what there was strictly in International English – the language of Eurovision. So, if somebody wandered into Step Up 3D expecting an original story, breathtaking acting, and witty dialogue, that person would have been disappointed and probably would have give the film a C (which my always dependable punching bag Nathan Rabin over at the Onion AV Club did.) However, I would counter that anybody that wandered into Step Up 3D expecting those things is a complete idiot.

Two Fridays ago, there was a column in the
Washington Post Express that said (essentially) that Step Up 3D was highly entertaining if “Hey! It’s Other Asian kid from Glee and he’s dancing right at me!” is something that you would utter in delight rather than in terror. Fortunately, I am one of the former and director Jon Chu found the one thing that could possibly have dragged me into a theater to see a 3D film - Harry Shum, Jr. dancing directly at me.

Here is what
Step Up 3D has to offer you, the viewer – amazing dancing. If you are the kind of person who youtubes Bollywood dance videos or regularly TiVos So You Think You Can Dance, then I don’t know why you aren’t in line for this movie right now. The choreography and performances consistently delighted and surprised me. The 3D space was used very effectively. Rows of dancers would fold and unfold and part like the red sea to let yet another row of dancers out; hands, feet, and other body parts flew at the camera; smoke, dust, water, and sweat hung around in the atmosphere. Being up close and personal with the dancers felt electric.

(That's Adam on the right!)

While the plot was only used to move the dancers from one dance battle to another, I actually appreciated the workman-like nature of the story. Absolutely no time was wasted on anything superfluous. Parental drama, romance, and existential angst all got short shrift in favor of dancing but there were some surprises courtesy the cast. I mentioned him earlier but Adam Sevani lights up the screen (literally, actually, in one dance battle).

While the script doesn’t require him to do much of anything, he took that ‘not much’ and managed to engage me emotionally in his story. He banters believably with his best friend (cutie-pie Alyson Stoner), whips up some comedic moments with his classmate the uber-nerd, and emotes very nicely throughout. Not only that, the boy can dance! I was charmed and fully engaged whenever Adam was onscreen – something I was not expecting when the gawky, curly-haired kid made his first appearance. Other stand-outs include reliable comic relief the Santiago Twins (Martin and Facundo Lombard), ultra-creepy Julien (Joe Slaughter, who homoerotically sleazed up every scene he was in much to my amusement), the lady dancer with the cornrows from the Samurai crew, and, yes, Harry Shum, Jr. from Glee.

(Joe Slaughter on the left!)

(What up, Corn Row Girl!)

So, is
Step Up 3D a “C” movie like my nemesis at the Onion AV Club would have you believe? I say no. For what it is – a Hollywood dance movie – I give the film an “A.” Director Jon Chu took a clich├ęd story and made it seem fresh and alive. I actually cared about what happened to the cardboard characters. I wanted them to win – and you will, too.

And that takes talent.

Step Up 3D, bravo!


Amaluu said...

I'm SO looking forward to seeing this and totally agree with your statement on expectations.

I'm planning on playing my favorite game with this movie - spot the So You Think You Can Dance dancer! Holla Twitch!

NOTE: This game is a spin-off of my original game, which is recognizing Bollywood background dancers from movie to movie. I rock at this game!

Anglotastic said...

Well, I am definitely "the kind of person who YouTubes Bollywood dance videos." Will I like this as much as I like watching "Dhoom Again" ad nauseum? Which is to say, do they *really* break the rules and party all the time? :)

Filmi Girl said...

@amaluu You will love it!! I really want to go again... Also, when I come visit Boston, maybe we can play your Bollywood game. :D

@anglotastic I think you will enjoy it - it's short and snappy and spends minimal time on boring plot stuff!

Shell said...

Of course I was excited when this movie previewed. I was thrilled to see Adam Shankman was not only a producer but was also nominated for his outstanding choreography in it. Plus, being a huge fan of SYTYCD, how cool to see some of my fav dancers from the show on screen (yay Katee, Twitch, Legacy!!!)

Unfortunately I haven't been yet. I'm crossing my fingers to be able to go soon. I'm glad the story and acting is as engaging as the dancing, though that would have been enough for me.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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