There’s a bit of deceptive advertising. This is NOT the first 3-D movie musical. “Kiss Me Kate” (1957) holds that distinction, followed by “Street Dance” from the UK earlier this summer.. But it is the first of the current craze to use the new technology with its astonishing depth of field to real cinematic advantage and, story-wise, it takes up where “Step-Up 2: The Streets” left off.
Baltimore childhood friends Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner) are now incoming freshmen at NYU, but then he joins ragtag family-like group called the Pirates. Its leader, Luke (Rick Malambri), is an aspiring filmmaker who has assembled an ethnically/sexually diverse yet effortlessly integrated collection of societal outcasts living and rehearsing in a Brooklyn warehouse called the Vault where, he claims, “Everybody here knows what it’s like to be a nomad…We can be ourselves and rules don’t apply.”
Using his digital camera, Luke has documented their underground club but he’s hesitant to show anyone the footage, despite encouragement by his mischievous girl-friend Natalie (Shami Vinson). And evoking shades of “Rent” coupled with “West Side Story,” a pivotal dash of drama is supplied by the warehouse’s danger of being repossessed, leaving everyone homeless unless they can win a World Jam dance contest that pits the Pirates against their rivals, the Samurai who are led by Natalie’s scheming, jealous brother Julian (Joe Slaughter) who’s trying to buy the building.
Working from an insipid, cliché-drenched screenplay by Amy Adelson and Emily Meyer, based on characters created by Duane Adler, choreographers Jamal Sims, Nadine “Hi Hat” Ruffin, Dave Scott and brothers Richmond and Anthony Talauega, and director Jon M. Chu concentrate on the high-concept, hip-hop dance sequences. So despite the flimsy fantasy (which was typical of most movie musicals), amateurish acting, hectic camerawork and erratic editing, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Step-Up 3-D” is an energetic, exhilarating, crowd-pleasing 6 – but the blandness of Malambri and Vinson can’t compare to the charisma of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers or Gene Kelly with a broomstick.