12/30/2010

Blu-ray Review: Step Up 3 (2010)



AKA: Step Up 3D (Theatrical Title)

Now Available to Own







Photo Slideshow





Original Step Up 3D Theatrical Review:

Quite possibly the most energetic full-out dance picture we’ve seen in ages, Step Up 3D makes a laughingstock of last year’s uninspired Fame remake and reminds avid filmgoers just why we go to the movies.

After the Angelina Jolie vehicle Salt, Step Up 3D is easily the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far during this lackluster summer wherein amusingly, character driven indies keep stealing the thunder of big budget blockbusters. However, these scrappy New York City dancers kick back with gusto, going to the mat for the Hollywood studios by delivering escapist fare of the highest order.


So filled with creative choreography that the energy of the dancers pours out of the frame in such a way that cinematographer Ken Seng can barely keep everything in the lens as backup dancers spring forth like a fountain in every direction, Step Up 3D is elaborately executed with extravagant, eye-popping, entertaining sequences that continually top all those that we’d previously encountered.

Essentially director Jon Chu’s third installment of the Step Up series is short on plot as the predictable, dubious screenplay doesn’t generate a single surprise, making it no wonder that it’s weakly acted by a large cast of appealing toe-tappers who are best expressing themselves with back-flips and break-dancing. However, it’s easily forgiven by the sheer ambitious scope and jaw-dropping power of the endlessly creative production numbers.


Like an adventure movie, we’re basically just hanging in there until the next burst of action propels the work forward. In doing so, we lose ourselves in what could be considered an extended series of innovative music videos as the film’s choreographers incorporate all styles of movement from classical tango to street dancing with nods to legends like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse and Michael Jackson in between.


Although I hadn’t seen the second work in the franchise and so I was unaware that two of the characters from Step Up 2 the Streets were reprising their roles in Chu’s second directorial effort in the series, since the main focus is all about the beat of the streets, the film plays just as successfully for those familiar with the elements of the previous movies as it does to those just strolling in unaware.


Obviously I have no idea if the movie will wind up premiering on DVD and Blu-ray in 3D or not since Touchstone’s parent company of Walt Disney Home Entertainment is notorious for releasing previously three dimensional works in a 2D disc format. Therefore I can’t stress how vital it is to catch this movie not only in the theatre but also in 3D to fully appreciate just how much effort went into ensuring an unparalleled visceral experience where dancers seem to journey off the screen, pulling you towards them as if inviting you to join the celebration regardless of where you’re sitting.

Virtually an exploratory near-IMAX voyage of just what can be achieved with 3D technology, the movie manages to maximize the potential of the medium with eye-candy galore as bubbles pop before your eyes, a car drives towards us while taking in Time Square, water splashes our direction, dancers glow in the dark, and an Icee spirals around in the wind.


And given the visual emphasis, Step Up 3D can certainly be accused of trying to use technology to make up for some pretty laughable lines of dialogue as instead of simply articulating his belief that naturally gifted dancers are “born from a boombox,” dance crew leader and aspiring filmmaker Luke (Rick Malambri) informs NYU freshman engineering major Moose (Adam G. Sevani) that he is “BFAB.”

Likewise, the West Side Story infused rivalry and confrontations between the two best dance groups never really feels authentic as Luke recruits not only Moose but also his obvious love interest – the beautiful Natalie (Sharni Vinson) – to compete at a world dance competition to save their warehouse living space courtesy of the one hundred grand cash prize.


However, despite the fact that we see one of the biggest twists concerning Natalie’s character coming a mile away or in fact within the first ten minutes she’s onscreen given an obvious editing mistake that focuses a second too long on another individual, since above all we’re not all that invested into the movie on a sudsy soap opera level, we have no problem ignoring the one-dimensional plotline to focus instead on the bravura three dimensional presentation.


Needless to say, from Footloose to Dirty Dancing to Flashdance to Save the Last Dance the genre isn’t exactly known for their particularly Earth-shattering plots and regardless of the fact that Step Up 3D is no exception, it manages to capture the same breathtaking feeling of those earlier movies and after overlooking the synthetic plot contrivances, we just can’t help getting wrapped up in the rhythmic beauty of human movement perfectly captured on film.

2D Blu-ray Review:

Despite a lukewarm box office reception to Step Up 3, Disney's Touchstone Pictures gave Jon M. Chu's underrated dance sleeper the first rate treatment in both its digital transfer and subsequent release. Perhaps predicting a greater response to the film as a "guilty pleasure" at home, Disney served up three different versions of the third Step Up work from which consumers could choose.

In addition to the single disc, 2 dimensional (or 2D) DVD and a 2D Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, in order to preserve the original presentation that most viewers missed in the theatre, Touchstone and Summit also unveiled a three disc 3D Combo Pack that incorporates a 2D and 3D Blu-ray version, a DVD and a portable Digital Copy to take with you and watch on the way to dance class.


Although the discs were loaded with deleted scenes, "Extra Moves," and eight music videos including a "making-of" counterpart to the MTV ready creations, I immediately bypassed all bonus features to get back to the main event itself. Namely, I was eager to gauge whether or not Step Up 3 (minus the D) would still entertain to the same degree without giving us a third dimensional layer of visual information.

Obviously, it doesn't have the same instantaneous visceral impact that Chu's movie delivered from the start when projected digitally in 3D on a silver screen to combat 3D headaches and dizziness. Nonetheless, you still find yourself caught up in the awe-inspiring physicality on display that you can now witness and appreciate more fully and minus the distraction of kid-in-a-candy-store effects to instead feel the rush of relishing in the pitch-perfect harmony put forth by top notch dancers utilizing innovative choreography.

This being said, if you do have a 3D set-up, you're going to be sure to want to drop a few extra bucks on the multiple format combo pack to best appreciate the high-quality, adrenaline fueled show that screened in theatres over the past summer.

Admittedly, in most cases, I feel the reliance on 3D is a gimmick that should be avoided like injecting your film with more CGI than human emotion or authentic characters.

Yet there is at least one exception to every rule and many more exceptions to be found when dealing with personal taste and opinion. For honestly Step Up 3D is as close as many of us will get to seeing a Broadway or Las Vegas style elaborate dance production from what feels like the vantage point of watching both behind and in-front of the stage. And truly in this day and age, every once in awhile, we all need a thrilling escapist spectacle to pull us out of reality and remind us to dream.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I attended a free press screening of this title for my original review and later received the 2D Blu-ray release in order to evaluate this product for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not Step Up received a favorable or unfavorable critique.