The characters are hardly three-dimensional, but the actors who play them seem to have no bones in their staggeringly flexible bodies. So all is more or less well in the third (and probably best) installment of the Step Up movie franchise.
The Step Up films have never been more than dumb fun -- accent on the dumb -- so the best way to judge them is to consider the plot-to-dance ratio. Too much talking and emotional crises, and the movie loses points. Happily Step Up 3D doesn't waste a lot of time with unnecessary set-up or blathering, quickly introducing its dancers (some from the earlier movies), its urban setting (NYC) and the looming Big Competition (which, if won, will save our heroes' rehearsal/living space, where they reside in harmony like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, only with more boom boxes).
The leader of the crew -- the ``Pirates,'' hilariously enough -- is wannabe filmmaker Luke (Rick Malambri), who is nobly carrying out his dead parents' wish of encouraging the dreams of dancers by providing a roof over their do-ragged heads.
But Luke's five months behind on the rent, and nobody in the crew seems to realize that getting a job, even a part-time one, might help him out. How can you sling Frappuccinos when all you wanna do is bust a move?
Only slightly more practical about adulthood is the skinny little Moose (the likable Adam G. Sevani) from Step Up 2, now a freshman at NYU, who assures his parents he'll devote himself to engineering instead of spinning around on his head. This promise lasts exactly as long as you expect it to (about 45 seconds).
Don't bother to assess the dialogue (``I dance because dance can change things'' and ``You gotta earn your kicks'' are about as good as it gets). The actors, aside from Sevani, were clearly not cast for their mad acting skills (though fans may be happy to spot Harry Shum Jr., Mike Chang from Glee, coming at them in 3D). For that matter, the 3D wasn't entirely necessary, either.
But the dance numbers are spectacular, and director Jon Chu (Step Up 2) packs the movie with them. He even throws in two retro numbers, one a tango set to Bust Your Windows and another a delightful throwback to the '40s with Sevani and his best gal pal Camille (Alyson Stoner) flitting about on a city street. During such moments, it's possible to forget how ridiculous Step Up 3D is and just revel in the beat.
Cast: Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner.
Director: Jon Chu.
Screenwriters: Amy Andelson, Amy Meyer, Duane Adler.
Producers: Erik Feig, Jennifer Gibgot, Adam Shankman, Patrick Wachsberger.
A Touchstone release. Running time: 107 minutes. Brief strong language.
Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson are shown in Summit Entertainment's new movie, "Step up 3D". (John Bramley/Summit Entertainment/MCT)