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"Step Up 3D" features stunning photography, dazzling choreography and a plot with two left feet

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"Step Up 3D" features stunning photography, dazzling choreography and a plot with two left feet

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Given that I'm a 51 year-old white guy who lives in the woods of New Hampshire, I'm guessing that I'm not really the target audience for "Step Up 3D."

So when I found myself at a press screening for this new Jon Chu film earlier this week, I have to admit that there was a period of adjustment. It took me a while before I could then buy into this hip-hop fairy tale.  

Daniel "Cloud" Campos (center) in Touchstone Pictures and Summit Entertainment's
"Step Up 3D." Photo by K.C. Bailey. Copyright 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC.
All rights reserved

Case in point: In "Step Up 3D" 's opening sequence, when Moose (Adam Sevani) suddenly ditches his NYU orientation so that he could then go dance-battle Kid Darkness (Daniel "Cloud" Campos) in Washington Square Park ... To be honest, my initial thoughts were: "This kid is skipping orientation? But how will he find the engineering lab now? More to the point, does Moose know how much tuition to New York University costs? My God, his poor parents!"

Speaking of which: Moose's poor parents are played (albeit briefly) by Kathy Najimy and Frank Moran. These talented performers are only in "Step Up 3D" long enough for Moose's Dad to say: "I'm just glad that you finally gave up on all that silly dance stuff."  Which - of course - is then Moose's cue to try and become the first NYU student to ever double-major in Engineering and Dance.

(L to R from center back) Martin Lombard and Facundo Lombard, Oren "Flearock"
Michaeli, Kendra Andrews and Keith Stallworth. Photo by K.C. Bailey.
Copyright 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved

I'm serious. That's actually part of the happy ending that Touchstone Pictures and Summit Entertainment slapped together for the first ever dance drama to be shot and then released in digital 3D.

Okay. I know. I just kind of spoiled part of the plot for "Step Up 3D." And given how little plot there is in this motion picture, that's kind of a rotten thing to do.

(L to R) Adam Sevani, Kendra Andrews, Sharni Vinson, Tamara Levinson and Ashlee Nino.
Photo by K.C. Bailey. Copyright 200 Summit Entertainment, LCC. All rights reserved

So let me now talk about what's good about this digital 3D release. And that's the dancing. There are six major dance numbers in "Step Up 3D." And each of these sequences feature dazzling choreography which is then performed by a truly talented and attractive young troupe of dancers.  And then when you factor in the 3D aspect of this film ... Well, at several points during "Step Up 3D," there are literally dancers flying off the screen at you.

But the very best number in this movie (for me, anyway) was both its simplest as well as its most complex. It featured Sevani and "Camp Rock" vet Alyson Stoner dancing (in one continuous shot, mind you) through the streets of NYC to a remix of Fred Astaire's version of "I Won't Dance." And this routine (which referenced several classic MGM musicals like "It's Always Fair Weather") is so well choreographed / cleverly shot that you're both charmed & dazzled as you watch this number.

Adam Sevani and Alyson Stoner. Photo by K.C. Bailey
Copyright 2010 Summit Entertainment, LCC.
All rights reserved

And then there's the city of New York itself. Which looks truly terrific in digital 3D. Ken Seng (i.e. "Step Up 3D" 's director of photography) must really be a fan of NYC. For Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island, Chinatown and the Financial District have never looked better / been more atmospheric.

Look. Let's cut to the chase here:  The first two films in this series (i.e. 2006's "Step Up " and 200's "Step Up 2 The Streets") weren't exactly "Inception." And when you go to the movies in August ... Let's be honest here:  Aren't you looking for a little brainless escapism? Or - at the very least - some air conditioning?

House of GWAI. Photo by K.C. Bailey. Copyright 2010 Summit Entertainment, LCC.
All rights reserved

So my advice is - if you're seriously thinking about buying a ticket to "Step Up 3D" - just switch off your brain as you walk into that multiplex. Otherwise you're going to find yourself guessing this dance drama's central plot twist about a half hour into the picture.

No, just sit there in the dark with your popcorn & soda and then enjoy watching these incredibly talented & attractive dancers perform in 3D. That's what the audience I saw "Step Up 3D" with on Tuesday night did. Sure, they hooted & hollered at the corny parts. Not to mention yelling at the screen whenever this motion picture's plot got more than a little obvious.

Copyright 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved

But in the end, Tuesday night's audience did have a good time. And given that Moose did eventually figure out how to both go to NYU as well as be a member of the House of Pirates dance crew ... Well, that then meant that he wasn't actually wasting all of that money that his parents had paid out for tuition. Which - as the father of a soon-to-be-headed-to-college art student -- made me happy for some reason.

But like I said ... I'm probably not the target audience that the filmmakers had in mind when they were making "Step Up 3D." So your mileage may vary when you finally get around to watching this new Touchstone Pictures and Summit Entertainment release.

Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson in "Step Up 3D." Copyright 2010
Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved

So - just to recap here:  Go into this film expecting to to be stunned by the photography & dazzled by the choreography and then ignore "Step Up 3D" 's overly-obvious plot. Which really does have two left feet.

Your thoughts?

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  • Jim, nobody is going to see this movie. Why bother writing this at all?

  • I agree with Zephr. Lately I've been disappointed with the output at JHM. When I only get one article a day, and that article is about "Step Up 3D" or Race Cars in Las Vegas I feel a little jipped. Normally the content is great, except for the Mything in Action column, which always happens to be about the Hero’s Journey, so once you’ve read one of those articles, you’ve read them all. And I contend that the Hero’s Journey isn’t even mythly related. It’s a common narrative pattern found in many genres around the world. Why the author of those columns thinks that because the pattern is employed it has connections to “Mything” is beyond me. It’s just a basic narrative pattern to tell a story. Disney tells a lot of stories. Therefore you see it a lot. Which is why these columns are so repetitive. Anyways, back to the original reason for this post. Step Up 3d? Really? Today I have been jipped.

  • Guys --

    Not to belabor the obvious here ... But the reason that JHM has an article up today about "Step Up 3D" is because this motion picture is Walt Disney Studios' next release.

    I mean, Jim Hill Media IS a Disney news site. Which is why -- earlier this summer -- we ran reviews of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" and "Toy Story 3." This is also why -- later this year -- JHM will be running reviews of "You Again," "Secretariat," "Tangled" and "TRON: Legacy."

    I know, I know. "Step Up 3D" is not the sort of film that your typical theme park and animation fan will be interested in. But that said, I still think that it's important to acknowledge the Walt Disney Company's efforts as a whole these days. For the money that's made over at ESPN or off of Club Penguin or from a hip-hop fairy tale like "Step Up 3D" will still flow back into the Company coffers. And that dough is then used to fund things that you guys actually ARE interested in. Like new Disney theme parks for Shanghai or South America and/or turning live-action featurettes from the 1980s like "Frankenweenie" into full-length stop-motion motion pictures.

    So I guess what I'm asking me you guys to do here in take your blinders off. Stop thinking of the Walt Disney Company as this place that just builds theme parks or makes feature-length cartoons. Because that's certainly not how Bob Iger sees the future of this Company.

    You only have to look at last week's purchase of Playdom to realize that Iger has some very distinct plans for the Walt Disney Company. Ones that will force a lot of old-style Disney fans (who have already been rather resistant when it comes to embracing projects like the "High School Musical" & "Camp Rock" movies and / or the Marvel purchase) to rethink their previous long term allegiance to the Disney brand.

    And -- yes, I know -- I used the term "Disney brand." Which I know will upset a lot of  JHM readers who only associate the Disney name with terms like storytelling, magic, wonder, etc. But if you want to get a real sense of where this Company is headed for the future, you need to stop focusing on two relatively narrow aspects of the Disney empire. You need to take in the whole picture. Which then means acknowledging that The Walt Disney Company is now making motion pictures like "Step Up 3D." Why For? Because Mouse House executives know that there's an audience out there that actually does go to & enjoys movies like this.

    Which brings me to Zephr's comment (i.e. nobody is going to see this movie): What with the premium ticket prices that people now pay to attend 3D movies, Disney's own internal box office projections for "Step Up 3D" suggest that this dance drama will probably finish in the Top 3 for the coming weekend.  That -- what with "Inception" now entering its fourth week in theaters and there being not all that much audience interest out there for "The Wrong Guys" -- "Step Up 3D" should at least do as well as "Step Up" did back in August 2006 (grossing $20.6 million over its opening weekend) and/or as well as "Step Up 2 The Streets" did back in February 2008 (grossing $18.9 million over its opening weekend) if not significantly better.

    And then when you factor in how little it actually costs to make a movie like "Step Up 3D" as well as how much a movie like this earns when it's released overseas ("Step Up 2 The Streets" made $90.5 million during its international release. Which is significantly more than the $58 million that this dance drama made stateside) ... Well, you can anticipate that the Mouse will continue to make movies like this. Musicals that are primarily aimed at the teenage audience. Take -- for example -- "Prom." The new teen movie musical that Walt Disney Pictures will be releasing next April.

    Again, I know. A lot of JHM readers don't particularly like hearing about productions like "Step Up 3D." But every time you throw a rock in a pond, it makes a ripple. And given the ripples that were made at the box office by previous Walt Disney Studio releases like "Step Up" and "Step Up 2 The Streets" ... Well, that's why we're now seeing the Mouse release movies like "Step Up 3D" and "Prom."

    More importantly, if you want to know what Disney will be up to in the future (EX: which street show will replace "High School Musical 3: Senior Year - Right Here! Right Now!"), you really need to pay attention to what going in the Company OUTSIDE OF the theme parks and/or over at WDAS.

    Anyway ... That's my overly long explanation as to why JHM has a review up today for "Step Up 3D." A movie that -- to be honest -- I wasn't all that enthusiastic about. But to quote Linda Loman from "Death of a Salesmen" : "Attention must be paid." For a film like this (especially if it does well at the box office) really will have an impact on the future of the Walt Disney Company. You just have to look beyond the theme parks and the animated features in order to be able to see that.

    Does that explanation make any sense to you guys?

  • Hey Jim, sorry to be critical and I knew it was a Disney owned studios. It's just been rough couple days and needed to vent. I didn't play so well at golf last night, and then the Rays lost. I usually read your article at work, as some bit of relief. Just seeing an article about this movie turned me off even more, and I had to vent.

    Still a regular reader though. I gave it a shot too, I didn't just see the title and be like "What is this doing here?" I still read the article.

    I guess with articles like this you are able to expand your coverage of Disney as a whole. Which is what I want, a thorough coverage of the company.

    Keep up the good work.

  • It makes sense of course but it's sad sense.

  • I found this article interesting! When deciding if you want to spend your money on the latest Disney movie it's good to know what to expect...

  • Skuba -- Thanks for your comment regarding my "Mything in Action" column. If you'd like to gain a better understanding of the fundamental connection between mythic storytelling and the Campbellian Hero's Journey (aka "the monomyth") you may want to read The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers:


    You can also get a highly summarized overview here (you may find Part II of particular interest):


  • Had to post on this. Really, if it's simply an article reviewing the latest Disney project, whatever it is, please don't feel compelled to review it in detail, it's being hyped to the hills already. Just sayin', an out and out review isn't fun (hot, cold, or lukewarm), but a "will they do a "Step Up" live show at WDW" article would be fun and informative, yes?

    Oh, and I agree with an earlier poster. Those "Mything" articles are roughly equivalent to watching your substitute grade school teacher enthusiastically point out present and past tense participles...and yes, before you ask, I've read Campbell.

  • Im a teenager and LOVE this movie.

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