The advanced 3-D technology of today meets the mothballed clichés of yesteryear in Step Up 3D, the second sequel to the surprise 2006 smash Step Up. Step Up 3D’s fashion and breakdancing sequences hearken back to the gaudy, giddy ’80s, and the screenplay could just as easily double as a second sequel to Breakin’: A ridiculously huge, seemingly multimillion-dollar loft serves as the home and rehearsal space for a motley aggregation of multicultural dancers, and stands in for the requisite inner-city rec center as the haven that needs saving from the parasitic clutches of rich white folks.
Beefcake Rick Malambri, who appears to be the product of a genetic-engineering experiment combining the DNA of Ashton Kutcher and Step Up star Channing Tatum, stars as a soulful street dancer who serves as a father figure to a team of talented street dancers in danger of losing their home if they don’t raise money by winning a dance competition against their longtime rivals. Step Up 2: The Streets’ Adam G. Sevani costars as a curly-haired moppet whose geeky, awkward exterior hides astonishing dancing skills, while Alyson Stoner plays Malambri’s love interest, a hot-blooded young woman with a dark secret that could rip her surrogate family apart in the most histrionic manner imaginable.
Step Up 3D immediately makes campy, fun use of the format with an opening dance sequence involving bubbles and balloons flying directly at audiences. 3D lends the film’s more-or-less wall-to-wall dance sequences an extra jolt of kinetic energy, but no amount of technological razzle-dazzle or energetic hoofing can cover up laughably awful dialogue, painful plotting, and the unabashed recycling of the conventions of every dance and “Let’s put on a show!” movie ever made. Director Jon Chu—returning from Step Up 2: The Streets—is a whiz at dancing and technology, and a borderline amateur at directing actors. The film’s script is brain-dead and the performances wooden, but the dancing and 3-D are sometimes spectacular. Who needs competent acting and writing when there are so many shiny, pretty things flying right at you?