As a longtime 3D fan, I’ve been puzzled and discouraged to hear more than one director refer to “subtle use of 3D” in their films. Excuse me? I may be wrong, but I don’t think “subtle” and “3D” belong in the same sentence. The whole point of 3D is to provide an enhanced movie-watching experience. At its best, it can be a lot of fun—whether it’s Charles Bronson leaping out of the dark to pounce on Phyllis Kirk in House of Wax or a winged creature taking flight in How to Train Your Dragon.
Director John Chu decided to have fun with the medium in the new Disney dance movie Step Up 3D, and as a result his movie is—
—great fun to watch. The story is a collection of amiable clichés, but the cast is appealing, the location work in New York City is imaginative, and the musical numbers are bursting with energy and life. (My two favorites are the ones that break with the film’s hip-hop sensibilities: an ensemble tango and a saucy Fred Astaire homage that’s shot in one long, unbroken take as two teenage dancers make their way down a Manhattan brownstone street.)
Because so many of the movie’s dance numbers are performance pieces, it isn’t jarring to see individuals standing front and center—popping out of the screen—or doing moves that are literally in our face.
In short, I had a good time with Step Up 3D, and if the medium is the message, this one justifies its use of 3D better than many more ambitious and expensive productions.