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Step Up 3: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Review

Step Up 3D movie poster Step Up 3(D)

Theatrical Release: August 6, 2010 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: John Chu / Writers: Amy Andelson, Emily Meyer (screenplay); Duane Adler (characters)

Cast: Rick Malambri (Luke), Adam G. Sevani (Moose), Sharni Vinson (Natalie), Alyson Stoner (Camille), Keith Stallworth (Jacob), Kendra Andrews (Anala), Stephen "tWitch" Boss (Jason), Martνn Lombard (The Santiago Twins), Facundo Lombard (The Santiago Twins), Oren "Flearock" Michaeli (Carlos), Joe Slaughter (Julien), Daniel "Cloud" Campos (Kid Darkness), Aja George (The Ticks), Straphanio "Shonnie" Solomon (The Ticks), Terence Dickson (The Ticks), Chadd "Madd Chadd" Smith (Vladd), Britney "B" Thomas (B.), Terrance Harrison (Radius), Jonathan "Legacy" Perez (Legz), Jaime "Venum" Burgos (Mohawk), Ivan "Flipz" Velez (Spinz), Ashlee Nino (Stix), Tamara Levinson (Bend), Ricardo "Boogie Frantick" Rodriguez Jr. (Wave), Mari Koda (Jenny Kido), Harry Shum Jr. (Cable), Christopher Scott (Hair), Luis Rosado (Monster), LaJon "Lil Duda" Dantzler (Smiles), Janelle Cambridge (Fly)

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By Kelvin Cedeno

You've already seen Step Up 3. You may not think so, but you have. If you've ever seen a film about a group of underdogs in a competition, a romance in which one half of the couple has a dirty little secret, or a character who dismisses his dreams as impractical, then Step Up 3 will offer nothing new for you.
That alone isn't a bad thing, as most films can be boiled down to clichιs. It's how they tell their stories that makes all the difference. If only that were the case here.

The third entry in the Step Up series (and the first to be shot and presented in 3-D), this new outing follows quirky NYU freshman Moose (Adam G. Sevani, returning from Step Up 2 The Streets). Skilled at dancing, he's put that lifestyle aside to study towards a career in electrical engineering. His focus wavers, however, upon meeting Luke (Rick Malambri) and his misfit friends. The gang is part of The House of Pirates, a dancing group called that spends most of its time training for the upcoming World Jam dance contest. At the expense of leaving his best friend Camille (Alyson Stoner, returning from the first Step Up) behind and isolated, Moose is sucked into this world where dance reigns. Meanwhile, new in town girl Natalie (Sharni Vinson) catches Luke's eye, and the two grow closer together.

Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner) pose for a photo on their first day of college. Early risers Natalie (Sharni Vinson) and Luke (Rick Malambri) contemplate what they're getting themselves into with their next competition.

Step Up 3 isn't quite sure what it wants to be. It tries hard to be hip and edgy for mainstream audiences while at the same time remaining safe and appropriate enough for the Disney Channel tween crowd. It won't work for either demographic. The attempts at coolness and maturity are laughable. I'm far from the best judge at something like this, but even I know no one talks like these characters. Although it doesn't really present anything inappropriate for youngsters (it's rated PG-13 merely for a few casual swears regularly heard on primetime television), Step Up 3 has too many things that will go over their heads.

The film also suffers an identity crisis over its presentation of dance numbers. For the most part, these are presented in realistic scenarios with characters either performing for an audience or rehearsing. There are times, though, where dance is used as a storytelling device, functioning like a number in a musical. For example, Moose is confronted solo by a group of rival dancers in a bathroom. The first thought is that a brutal beatdown is about to take place. Instead, the gang intimidates him with dancing, driving him out. Moments like this one jar in an otherwise grounded world. The West Side Story route only works if you're all in and establish the design early on. Here, viewers expecting a realistic dance drama will be left confused while fans of dance numbers in musicals will be disappointed at how distanced such scenes are from the story.

Vladd (Chadd Smith) does some robotic dance moves no doubt intended for the third dimension. The Pirate Dance Group uses LED lights on their clothing to add a bit of dazzle to their World Jam finale number.

Step Up 3 has one thing going for it, and that, of course, is the dancing itself. Those who don't care about presentation so long as they get their fix of grooves in some way should come away satisfied. Some of the moves are so intricate and fast that they almost look like special effects. The style here is mostly breakdancing, the series' bread and butter. Occasionally it strives for something different, most notably in a tango sequence and in a musical theatre-style scene.
The latter is easily the highlight of the film as we watch Moose and Camille dance through an entire block in one continuous take, evoking the type of numbers seen in classic MGM musicals. It's a shame more variety wasn't provided as it would've set Step Up 3 apart from its countless cousins.

As it stands, this sequel does nothing to distinguish itself other than using 3-D, the gimmicks of which are certainly noticed but not appreciated in 2-D. The characters are of the stock variety, and anyone who's seen any sort of dance flick knows what to expect. In fact, anyone who's seen any movie, period, will know what to expect. Everything about the script just feels tired and overdone, and the confused presentation can't do anything to elevate it. In a world where far better franchises are more deserving of continuations, I can only imagine that this installment was greenlit to cash in on the 3-D craze.

In the usual two dimensions, besides losing the "D" of its theatrical title, Step Up 3 feels like a direct-to-video effort. The recent home video debut does, however, follow a theatrical run that paled to its two predecessors in earnings and, more substantially, attendance. Disney has made Step Up 3 available as a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, and a 3-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo. The middle of those three arrangements is reviewed here.

Step Up 3 Blu-ray + DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 7.1 (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-50, 1 DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and
3-Disc 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo Pack ($49.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Step-Up 3 comes to Blu-ray in 1.78:1 widescreen. Unlike most of last year's 3-D movies, this one was actually shot that way from the start. This means we get a direct digital transfer. The results are, for the most part, excellent. Colors are vivid and pop off the screen on a regular basis without seeming overblown. Sharpness and detail are refined, and there are no discernible defects. Only a few minor source-related issues due to the 3-D cameras (a slight harshness in certain shots and some cheap motion blur in others) keep the image from looking perfect.

The film is one of the few to have had a DTS-HD 7.1 mix created right off the bat for its theatrical exhibition, and that track is replicated here excellently. Obviously the major component is music of which there's plenty. All the dance sequences, particularly the competition scenes, feature heavy room-shaking bass. Other musical elements come across strong and clear, spread throughout the whole sound field. The only casualty of such an intense music-driven track is that sound effects and ambience get drowned out to a degree. Luckily the dialogue remains sharp in this strong presentation.

The included DVD's video and audio are comparable to the Blu-ray's. Obviously the Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't carry quite the same weight, but it still satisfies, feeling rich within its constraints. The DVD's image is reasonably sharp with compression being kept to a minimum. While other studios have done half-hearted jobs with their DVD transfers as of late, Disney still makes an appreciated effort on theirs.

Legz (Jonathan Perez) is one of the Pirates sharing his life story in Luke's "Born from a Boombox" documentary. "Extra Moves" shows the dance crew practicing the tango in casual wear.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Step Up 3's Blu-ray bonus features begin with "Born from a Boombox: A Luke Katcher Film" (11:51). This presents the dancing documentary the character of Luke puts together throughout the film. Since we only catch brief snippets in the film, most of this is new. Almost all of the main characters share their backstories, how music has shaped them, and their unique approaches to dance. Despite being a faux documentary, this is far more honest and natural than anything in the main narrative and is actually more involving because of that.

"Extra Moves" (7:20) is basically a reel of B-roll footage. There are no talking heads or voiceovers, only looks at various dance portions being rehearsed and shot. In between takes, actors goof off and throw comments at the camera. This doesn't replace a standard making-of featurette, but the fly-on-the-wall approach renders this, the disc's only behind-the-scenes content, interesting.

Jacob (Keith Stallworth) explains the significance of his tattoos to Moose in this deleted scene. Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson text their pals about an upcoming dance event in the music video for Roscoe Dash, T-Park, and Fabo's "My Own Step."

Next up are eight deleted scenes presented with introductions by director Jon M. Chu (23:57). Most of these extend scenes wisely trimmed for running too long. Among the more notable cuts are a scene in which we learn of Jacob's past and the entire World Jam competition (in the final cut we only see the last round). The Jacob scene would've added more depth to a character who serves little purpose otherwise, but everything else doesn't really go missed.

A whopping eight music videos (29:48) follow. They are: "Club Can't Handle Me" by Flo Rida featuring David Guetta, "My Own Step" by Roscoe Dash and T-Park featuring Fabo, "Already Taken" by Trey Songz, "This Girl" by Laza Morgan, "This Instant" by Sophia Fresh featuring T-Pain, "No Te Quiero (Remix)" by Sophia Del Carmen featuring Pitbull, "Irresistible" by Wisin y Yandel, and "Spirit of the Radio" by JRandall. Mostly hip-hop and R&B, the songs are honestly not very distinguishable from one another. The same goes for the videos themselves as the majority of them just show the performers in club and dance floor scenarios. Only "My Own Step" and "This Instant" attempt to tell a story, the former featuring actors Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson and the latter using a boot camp theme. Otherwise, these are all pretty forgettable.

Sophia Fresh members Skye, Crystal, and Cole Rose introduce themselves to the behind-the-scenes camera crew in "Making the Music Videos." Natalie makes a dramatic leap that leaves a trail behind her in the stylized "Step Up 3" main menu.

The final supplement is "Making of the Music Videos" (7:15). What "Extra Moves" did for the feature film, this featurette does for the music videos. Instead of sit-down interviews, miscellaneous shots from the various sets show the performers at work and in between takes.
Spending only about a minute on each, we get an all-too-brief look at their creation.

Identical to the disc sold on its own, the DVD in this combo pack drops "Born from a Boombox" and the deleted scenes, but retains everything else.

Both discs open with a preview for You Again. An additional trailer for Secretariat can be found from the menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing. The Blu-ray adds another for Disney Blu-ray 3-D while the DVD opts to promote Disney Blu-ray Combo Packs instead.

The main menu, identical on DVD and Blu-ray, showing cut outs of different dancers performing under strobe lighting on a CG dance floor. The BD's pop-up menu is listed vertically on the left and expands to the side. The loading icon features the outline of an upside down dancer, the interior filling with yellow as the disc loads.

The discs are housed in a side-snapped standard blue keepcase held in a cardboard slipcover featuring only the most minor of embossment. Inside are pamphlets for both Blu-ray and Disney Blu-ray 3-D.

At Grand Central Terminal, The Pirate Dance Group shows their support for Luke and Natalie: the Santiago Twins (Martin and Facundo Lombard), Camille (Alyson Stoner), Jason (Stephen Boss), Moose (Adam G. Sevani), Anala (Kendra Andrews), Jacob (Keith Stallworth), Spinz (Ivan Velez), and the Ticks (Terrence Dickson and Straphonio Solomon).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

People approaching Step Up 3 should already know what to expect. The tired storyline is just an excuse to hang dance numbers on, and while those are technically impressive, they may leave more than a few viewers scratching their heads.

At least the Blu-ray presentation is rock-solid. The image is near reference-quality and the audio gives your system a thorough workout. Supplements, however, are meager and don't tell us much about the making of the film. Breakdancing fans will want to rent this, but everyone else can certainly find much better dance movies out there.

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Reviewed January 3, 2011.



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