Starring: Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson
Directed by: Jon Chu (“Step Up 2: The Streets”)
Written by: Amy Andelson (debut) and Emily Meyer (debut)
It may be the best movie of the street-dance franchise, but “Step Up 3D” has to face the same facts its two predecessors did: great chorography and dance sequences might be enough for dance enthusiasts to gravitate toward, but without a sensible script and at least a smidgen of acting ability from the cast, what’s really the point?
It sure isn’t the 3-D technology that merits another return to the series, which started back in 2006 with Channing Tatum in the lead role. The 3-D only works when the dancers are incorporating hand movements into their performance and when the camera is at eye level, but much of the ploy is merely added to keep up with the money-making trend most summer movies are forced to invest.
After the original movie hit theaters four years ago and turned Tatum into a hot commodity in Hollywood (the guy has four major movies opening next year), the story hit a plateau with “Step Up 2: The Streets” despite having more characters and imaginative moves. Still, it maintained its priority for energetic dancing techniques, which has really been the franchise’s only strong suit. In this round, “3D” follows Moose (Adam G. Sevani) as he joins up with a new dance crew after he enrolls at New York University to study engineering.
Heading the group is Luke (Rick Malambri), a dancer and aspiring filmmaker, who recruits kids from all over the city who have the talent it’ll take to help him defeat the their rivals in the New York City dance world. The antagonists are known as the House of Samurai, who are always the favorite to win the big dance competition of the year.
This year, however, it’s about survival for Luke and his crew. They need to win the $100,000 prize money so the bank doesn’t foreclose on their dance studio and sell it to the highest bidder at auction. With Moose and new exciting dancer and love interest Natalie (Sharni Vinson) in Luke’s lineup, the group must work towards the big hip-hop showdown against their nemesis if they want to keep the crew together.
If all you’re interested in is the frenetic footwork of the dancers, then by all means see “Step Up 3D.” The talent these dancers have is fantastic and worthy of an audience. The same can be said, however, about the number of reality dance shows on TV right now that highlight different dancing styles.
Reality dance shows are an easier pill to swallow, however, because they don’t include the ridiculous storylines movies like “Step Up 3D” flash around so it can call itself a movie. Watching these kids flip and kick and defy gravity with their dancing abilities is impressive. Everything else is a collection of inept sub-cultural afterthoughts.
Australian actress, model and dancer Sharni Vinson has only been living in the U.S. for two years, but she already landed her first lead role in a major Hollywood movie.
Vinson, 27, who moved from Sydney to L.A. in 2008 to pursue her career in the entertainment industry, stars in “Step Up 3D,” the third installment of the popular street dance film franchise that started in 2006.
In “Step Up 3D,” Vinson plays Natalie, the newest addition to a New York City street dance crew who hopes to win the prize money in a dance competition so their studio won’t be shut down.
During an interview with me, Vinson talked about the long tradition of dancing in her family and the challenges she faced learning new dancing styles.
What is your earliest memory of dancing?
I’ve been dancing my whole life. I’m a third-generation performer. My grandmother was a ballerina. My mother was in musical theater. I remember watching my mother perform when I was young and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”
You must’ve seen a lot of yourself in your character.
Yeah, it hit close to home. She is a dancer and her life revolves around it. I stopped dancing for a while a couple of years ago and I was lost during that time. There is a passion that dance brings out of you. That is what Natalie is all about. I connected to her through that.
You moved to L.A. from Australia only two years ago. What did your family think when you told them of your decision?
They were supportive. They knew it was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It wasn’t a shock. It was planned out. My mom flies out as much as she can to visit me. They are happy that I’m living the dream.
“Step Up 3D” is, of course, the third installment of this franchise. What is it about the dancing techniques that make it stand out from the rest?
These moves are ones you’ve never seen before. We brought in the best dancers that exist at the particular styles they excel in. [Director] Jon [Chu] has captured everything in this film. There are so many new styles that aren’t in the other two. Everyone will be able to relate to a lot of the different dances.
With your background in dance, how challenging was this style of dance compared to your experience?
It was challenging for me because I grew up a ballerina. Many of these styles are more hip-hop. With each choreographer comes a different style. The most challenging things are the most rewarding when you get them right. It’s been a pleasure to watch it all unfold and see the finished product.
Do you have to be open to different dance styles if you want to be a professional dancer?
Yeah, you have to expand with the amount of different styles that come in. Some of these dances come about because one day someone decided to express themselves to music in their individual way. Shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” are introducing all these different styles of dance and taking these dancers who may only know one specific style and making them broaden themselves and learn more. It makes you a better dancer. It’s important to embrace it all. But at the same time, everyone is special because of their uniqueness. You should never lose that. It’s cool to learn all these styles that you’ve never heard of before. Expression through music is the best part.
If anyone knows his or her way around the dance flick genre, it has to be actor Harry Shum Jr. Over the last six years, Shum Jr. has landed a role dancing in a number of feature films including “Stop the Yard,” “You Got Served,” and “Step Up 2: The Streets.” Now, Shum Jr., who is also known for his role on the popular TV show “Glee,” reprises his role as Cable in “Step Up 3D,” the third installment of the street-dance franchise.
During an interview with me, Shum Jr., 28, talked about how street dancing has changed over the last 10 years and whether he considers street dancing more of an art form or form of entertainment.
Did you always think your dancing career would lead you to acting on the big screen?
Yeah, that was always my intention. Actually, acting was my first love and dancing came second. I didn’t even know I was able to dance. It came into my life because someone dared me to audition for the dance team when I was in high school. I always wanted to do feature films and television as well.
Since you started dancing only about a decade ago, how would you say street dancing has evolved during that time?
Street dancing has become more relevant in the mainstream. I do like things that come from underground and start of as niches with small groups of people really involved in it. It’s a giant step for street dancing. People are starting to take notice and starting to separate the different styles.
Other than street and hip-hop, what other types of dancing are you most interested in doing?
In my career I’ve taken a lot of different classes. I’ve always had respect for different styles of dance. They all have something to offer the dance community. For me, personally, I associate myself as a street dancer, but I say my dance style is just dance. I try to incorporate everything into my freestyle or something I’m putting together choreography wise. Looking back to Michael Jackson and Gene Kelly and even [Mikhail] Baryshnikov, those are the masters of dance and I love every single one of them.
Since you do choreography as well, is it more gratifying to teach someone a new dance move or mastering one yourself?
They’re two different accomplishments. When you teach someone to do a dance or a move it’s a great feeling to be a part of that process. I don’t feel like you ever really master anything. If you master something then there’s no place to go from there. I don’t ever feel like I’m a master at anything. I feel you can work hard and try to get to a certain level where you feel confident to perform in front of other people. Once you think you’ve mastered something, someone else is going to come along and do it better.
Do you consider street dancing an art form or is it more about entertaining an audience?
It is an art form, but it is also a form of entertainment. I think that’s what keeps people engaged. Without watering it down, I think you need to have the balance of both. It should have the integrity of the art, and also keep the entertainment factor alive. There are people that do dance for the art and just for themselves, which is cool, but once you get into the industry you’re an entertainer.
You have a lot of experience in the dance movie. What do you think it is about the genre that keeps it popular?
There’s a different type of excitement. You have excitement in action and thrillers. One of your choreographers said it best. He said, “Movement is one of the best natural special effects you can use.” You don’t need CGI. You just need the human body to create what you want.
On that note, there are 3-D special effects in this new film. Do you think this technique can really enhance the experience of watching someone dance?
I think it’s just another form to heighten the experience for the audience. It lets you be inside the movie. To be honest, I’ve seen a lot of 3-D movies. Some of them are cool and others are gimmicky and don’t really pull you into the experience. But after watching “Step Up 3-D” a couple of times it’s really simulates that feeling of being alive in front of these dancers that are doing these amazing things.
Have you ever stepped on a girl’s feet doing a slow dance?
(Laughs) Too many times. I apologized and tried to charm them as best as I could with the rest of my dancing. They forgave me.