If I could fashion the world into the shape of my choosing, it would not be the floating dreamscape of Inception or the pinging point-based life-sized videogame of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Videogum Movie Club Selection for July 16, 2010), but rather, it would be the New York City of Step Up 3D, where conflicts are resolved through aggressive dance battling, which can occur at any time and in any place, for example in a bathroom when you are trying to pee. (This actually happens during the movie, when “Moose,” played by Adam Sevani, goes to urinate in Luke’s club [more on this later] only to be interrupted by the Ninjas, a rival dance squad, and challenged to an impromptu dance-off in a grimy Saw VI hell bathroom. It’s great.) These dance battles reflect the same class differences we struggle with now, where the rich dance crews are always trying to crush the poor dance crews, but a single dance battle can change one’s economic fortunes forever (or at least stave off the banks–fucking banks, right?!–for a few months). Obviously, I would perish in such a world, because I am terrible at dancing, and hate confrontation, but I would still choose for the world to be this way, so that I could see it for myself just once before being stomped to death by someone in breakaway pants wearing limited edition sneakers on the shiny stage of the World Jam Competition.
Admittedly, while the world of Step Up 3D is ideal, the movie itself has a couple of problems:
The basic plot of the movie centers around a guy named Luke and his ragtag dance crew, the Pirates, who all live together in a downtown loft filled with skate ramps and gymnastic equipment and (one assumes) Silly String fights. As we learn within the first 10 minutes, Luke is six months behind on his mortgage payments, and the bank is going to foreclose on the loft, and the nightclub below the loft, both of which Luke owns. But none of this will be a problem if he and his crew can beat the Ninjas at the World Jam Dance Competition. The grand prize is $100,000. But the Ninjas are very good at dancing, and they hate the Pirates, mainly because of a long-standing rivalry between Luke and his former best friend, Julien, who has a trust fund (BOO!) and once THREW A DANCE BATTLE to win a bet. What a snake! Everybody hates Julien say YEAHHHHHHHH.
Step Up 3D, like any good pornographic film (where here the pornography is the choreographed 3D dance-offs), knows that the subtle plot is not the appeal, and is not embarrassed to just get things out of the way quickly. So you hear lines like “Luke, the bank called, if we don’t pay them in three days they are going to foreclose on the loft,” followed by, “We’ll get them the money when we all work together as a team and win the World Jam Competition, finally defeating Julien in our long-standing rivalry, and proving to everyone that we are the best dance crew there is.” Fair enough. If anything, they could have gotten rid of the plot altogether. I don’t watch the “talking” scenes in porno either (just kidding, mom, I don’t even know what that word MEANS) and I certainly don’t care about the dramatic stakes. “Will he fuck her while her husband watches?” Who cares! But yes, he will, just as the Pirates are of course going to eventually win the World Jam Dance Battle and the $100,000 and prove to everyone that they are the best.
If you DO pay attention to the plot, then lots of funny questions keep popping up. Like, if Luke lives downtown in a skateboard loft with a gang of ragtag dancers, then how come the first thing he does when he meets Adam Sevani is drive him through Time Square? Time Square is the worst place to drive and they have no business there! It is like Chekov always said, if you are going to show two people driving through Times Square for no reason in the first act, then you must show them visiting the M&M Store in the third. And then there’s the issue of the $100,000 prize money. Are all two dozen dancers really on board with giving every last cent to Luke in order to save the downtown loft and small business? “It’s only together, as a team, that we can ensure that I continue to own incredible New York properties.” If they have no money to pay their mortgage, how do they afford a warehouse-sized collection of brand new limited edition Japanese Nikes elaborately displayed with museum-quality lighting? And if the nightclub is doing so badly, then how come it is packed with people at 7PM on a Tuesday night? And does NYU seriously have such a strict double-major policy that Moose has to have a one-on-one meeting with the Dean to personally request that the school allow him to pursue a double major three weeks into the first semester of his freshman year?
But all of these questions are part of the FUN! There is no confusion about why we are all here. This is why we are all here:
Personally, I could watch dance battles all day, and at times, I have done just that. But dance battles in 3D? I COULD DO THAT FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE. So great. The best? The best. Sure, when the actors weren’t dancing they had trouble delivering their lines in a way that convinced me they even spoke English, much less were enmeshed in a high-stakes and legitimate dance battle that was a real thing that people in the world knew about and thought was important. (Least believable line in the entire movie: “We have to get to Red Hook for round one of the World Jam!”) And the guy who played Luke was neither good at talking NOR good at dancing, since he had doubles for every dance scene, who I guess had to double for him standing on the sidelines looking nervous, because that was most of his involvement in the group effort to save his property anyway. Not sure why they cast him, although he WAS very good at kind of looking like Channing Tatum and probably costing 1/4 what he would cost, so there’s that. But again: so what?! This movie, in case you are still somehow confused about this, featured INCREDIBLE 3D DANCE BATTLES! Like, a bunch of them. They were fucking awesome.
So, Step Up 3D was the best. I give it five Takashi Murakami Adidas high tops!