Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Film Yap: Step Up 3D

After watching all three Step Up films, I think it’s fair to assess that these films are secretly musicals. The producers would never say they are musicals, because musicals are typically associated with Julie Andrews-type productions. That’s not as hip and flashy as street dancing. But these films undeniably follow the protocol of early musicals from the 1930s.

The plot is not important. At all. Just like Busby Berkeley movies were showcases for their new songs, these films are just vehicles to get from one dance scene to the next. Step Up 3D had a bit of a tricky situation since the first two films already used up most of the clichéd storylines associated with teenagers. Thankfully there’s still the “group is going to lose their home/workplace/whatever to the bank unless they win the big competition and its prize money.” It takes two lines of dialog to explain and the audience instantly understands all of the rules.

Of course to get to the big championship they have to go through a few rounds of competition. This is the laziest technique so far to have the characters break out into synchronized dance scene, but again…the story doesn’t matter. I’m an old fashioned poop who would prefer to see Ginger Rogers to Step Up 3D’s Sharni Vinson, but there is very watchable quality to this style of dance. It looks ridiculous and often it seems more random than choreographed, but a lot of the movies are incredibly impressive.

The sequences often successfully walk the line from being likable or just silly. However when the dance crew dons million-dollar light outfits that switch colors depending on the beat, then it’s hard to accept it. (Especially since they’re trying to win money…you know, to not be homeless.) I will buy the idea of a water pipe going off in the middle of a battle so they can dance new moves with the water, because this is not reality. This is a musical. They say they “rehearse” these numbers but when they are performing it is the same logic as everyone in West Side Story knowing all of the words to their impromptu songs.

So in order to make a good Step Up film, all they need to do is keep the scenes between dances simple enough. Step Up 3D came close, but still had way too much stupidity. Luke (Rick Malambri) apparently wants to be a documentary filmmaker so he’s working on a film about his dance crew. If I was reviewing his film I would give it 1 Yap, but everybody else in the film thinks it’s the next Thin Blue Line. His plotline is so dumb and so distracting from the important part of this film: illogical dance scenes. There is one point when Vinson asks something about how do you be a great filmmaker. Luke says, “I see the world in a way no one else does.” So he shows her his world and, sure enough, his world is ripping off the iconic image from Manhattan. (Woody Allen and Errol Morris references; I am reaching this movie’s audience.) If you cut majority of his scenes, this instantly becomes a stronger movie.

The major subplot is what holds true to a simplistic 30s musical. Moose (Adam G. Sevani) was one of the characters from 2008’s Step Up 2 the Streets and he’s now enrolled with his childhood friend Camille (Alyson Stoner) at NYU. They’ve grown up together but have never realized they’re romantically perfect for each other. This is perfect. The actors are very likable and this requires very little screen time to accomplish this arc. This is a perfect Step Up plotline. Bing Crosby could do this in his sleep.

This plotline features the one scene I can legitimately call “great.” I’m not being sarcastic or lowering my standards; this one works. After Moose and Camille had a little fight and they apologized, they hear a song play on the streets. It’s Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance (Don’t Ask Me).” In one long single take, the two of them dance down the streets of New York over a variety of props and sets. It’s a nice blend of both worlds and is completely charming.

If the movie was more like this and less of anything Luke is doing, then I could give the movie a surprisingly recommendation. Instead its insistence on having a movie around the dance scenes only makes people remember all of the dumb moments over the entertaining ones.

Finally a quick note on the 3D. The movie did look crisp throughout it but I had this glare on the side of my glasses and I’m not sure where that came from. The 3D made a few things blurry and since the dancers are moving at such a quick pace, it definitely lessens what they want to do. Yes, a few times they perform some moves into the theatre, but too often it was easy to tell a difference between what was filmed on which plane. So it’s decent 3D, but still not worth the money. Just enjoy asking for a ticket for “Step Up 3D in 2D.”

2.5 Yaps

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