Nothing about Step Up 3 works as a film. It’s shot like a bland TV movie, so much so the fades seem to already be inserted for commercials. The productions values are really in the gutter, the bland set design highlighted only by a stack of boom boxes. Writing is simply atrocious, juvenile enough that some fluff on the Disney Channel would even look at it and snicker. The plot contrivances are pathetic, and the ghastly attempts to utilize the 3D are so blatant it’s embarrassing.
Like the previous two Step Up efforts, the highlight here is the dancing, further adding to the gaping plots holes, but so be it. This is where all the money went, the insane talent and choreography on display tremendous, and the sets here so lavish it’s absurd. It all begs the question who is actually paying for this, since no sponsor is spoke of. The judges come and go to balance the racially stereotyped dance crews, and other excuses to showcase additional dancing are simply hilarious.
Step Up 3 does deserve an ounce of additional credit, because for all of its aggressiveness and headache-inducing soundtrack, there is a classic Hollywood number performed down the street by Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner). It’s not impressive because it hearkens back to the musicals of old, but because it’s done in a single take, the camera tracking them and performers nailing every step.
The rest of the numbers are stuck in the confines of 3D, forced to take advantage of the technology, leaving director John Chu at the mercy of the gimmick. It’s fine to leave the camera static in front of the group and let them work, but the other edits and positions are so blatant and lacking in style, there’s no point in even trying.
Sadly, everything surrounding this is pathetically awful it’s flat-out embarrassing. The “twists” are blatant, the acting sub-par, it’s all cliched, and the lack of logic is appalling. Part of this storyline concerns the Pirates dance crew unable to pay their rent, but they seem to have no problem purchasing matching leather jackets and whipping up shirts with LEDs. Another sequence involving the predictable romance between Luke (Rick Malambri) and Natalie (Sharni Vinson) takes a priceless turn for the worse during a “Slurpee date” that exists for nothing more than 3D.
It’s almost funny Luke’s secondary passion is filmmaking, putting together a documentary about the art of it all in-between the random dance encounters, including one in a bathroom that is more disturbing than anything. A documentary style is the best way for this series to go, because stripping the nonsense that passes for a plot in these things will finally let the real meat of this series shine without distractions. As it is, this is nothing but junk saddled between some impressive athleticism.
Step Up 3 was filmed digitally with the Sony HDW-F900, and it performs miles better than it did for another feature utilizing it, Starship Troopers 2. The film is deliberately candy-colored and saturated as far as it could possibly go, helping to make that 3D effect stand out even more in theaters. At home, it’s simply gorgeous. The variety of untouched primaries is stunning, and an early dance number involving some balloons striking.
It’s aided by some rich, powerful black levels that have no faults. Even moving into the basement area of a carnival where the lights are barely there, the image depth is maintained. The contrast is natural, never blinding or overwhelming. The whites are pure too, brilliant in their intensity.
There are few technical faults. Some noise begins to creep in beginning with the diner scene at 1:12:30, a problem that will be visible from time-to-time later. A rather egregious smoothing has been applied to Sharni Vinson’s face, wildly unnatural compared to the inconsistent but still generally textured faces elsewhere. Clothes carry all kinds of patterns and styles, all rendered by this AVC encode flawlessly. There’s a bit of ringing around Luke’s head at 30:56, the only time that becomes a problem. That master shot dance number at 1:09:12 takes an odd turn, either a different camera utilized, some effects applied to hide an unseen edit (doubtful), or the focus was off.
Most impressive for this AVC encode is how well it handles the mass of motion. There’s obviously a staggering array of movement on display, and no noticeable break-up occurs. The finale, draped with confetti, has no problem resolving every piece of silver paper as it falls from the sky. It rings true earlier too as the dance battle ends up on a stage spewing water, the thousands of droplets causing no havoc in the digital domain. It deserves quite a bit of credit for that.
The non-stop assault of dance beats either make you want to get up and dance in your room or take a couple of Advil. It’s as if the music never stops, constantly throbbing on the low-end with little variance in the intensity. This is too much, overbearing and swallowing the fidelity from elsewhere as if the treble was forgotten. It’s like driving down the street when the genius pulls up next to you with nothing but subwoofers in his trunk blaring hip-hop. Dialogue was seemingly forgotten, out of balance with everything else. Surely it’s by design, but the end result is just a mass of sound without much precision.
The 7.1 mix is unquestionably aggressive though aside from the music, the water dance routine splashing liquid everywhere. Who knew that flying Slurpee made a squishy sound effect by the way, captured in a nice front-to-back motion at 42:54. Large crowds gathering at these events cheer and scream barely making it over the music, although enough that they can be heard in the rears.
Extras include the full version of the documentary seen in the film, Born in a Boombox. It runs 12-minutes. Extra Moves is a collection of some additional dancing scenes cobbled together to promote the soundtrack. Eight deleted scenes carry an optional commentary from director John Chu, followed up by some music videos and the making of said videos. Trailers are left.