Another year, another installment in the Step Up franchise.
This time around, it's called Step Up: All In, and it features some returning favorites, like Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan and Alyson Stoner, performing all new choreography and feats of athleticism. Like all of the Step Up films, it has some semblance of a plot to frame all of the insane dance numbers, culminating in some sort of giant break dance battle (this time in Las Vegas!).
Living up to its title, the film includes a record sum of people stepping, stepping up, and stepping up: all in. Check our count from the trailer alone...
Steps - 58
Steps Up - 3. The two crews facing off at 0:13, the crews establishing their rivalry at 0:37, and the leads almost kissing at 0:56.
Steps Up: All In - 1. Beginning with the crazy flip-and-kiss at 1:01 and running through all of the fire-dancing at the end of the trailer.
Step Up: All In hits theaters on July 25 in 3D.
Let’s face it; high school reunions are a drag. You’re forced to interact with people you’ve long fallen out of touch with, many of them for good reason, and somehow you still feel the incessant need to impress them.
But one of the worst aspects of any high school reunion is the “What Have You Been Doing Since Graduation” game everyone plays. In fact, the only place high school reunions present any measure of entertainment value is in the movies. To wit, Universal is returning to the American Pie universe with the fourth film in the franchise: American Reunion. In preparation for this reunion, we thought it would be fun to check in and see what the students of East Great Falls class of 1999 have been doing since graduation. Given that they’re all movie stars, we’re assured their stories will be far more interesting than that of your salutatorian and his hardware store.
Ah, our beloved Jim. When he wasn’t making time with baked goods or horrendously misusing super adhesives, actor Jason Biggs managed to snag a pair of leading roles in 2000 that saw him reteam with his American Pie co-stars. He appeared alongside band geek Alyson Hannigan, as well as Freddie Prinze Jr., in Boys and Girls, and in Loser with Mena Suvari. Biggs then turned up in Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl co-starring with Ben Affleck and the late, great George Carlin. From that point on, he dotted a string of direct-to-video comedies with turns in such films as Eight Below and Over Her Dead Body.
Alyson Hannigan forever changed the way we would look at flautists, and not because of her musical talents. Outside of the American Pie franchise, Alyson Hannigan enjoyed a monumental level of success on television. She became an icon to an entirely different legion of geeks when she portrayed Willow on the Joss Whedon-created TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, based on the 1992 film. Currently, Hannigan stars on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, now in its seventh season.
Proving that some jocks do have a sensitive side, Chris Klein played the lovable Oz in the American Pie series. In addition to appearing in American Pie 1 & 2, his presence was sorely lacking in American Wedding, Klein starred in action flicks Rollerball and We Were Soldiers. In all honesty, my favorite Chris Klein roles were in films he landed both before and after his previous American Pie outings. His turn in Election, matching wits with a very perky, to the point of sociopathic, Reese Witherspoon was utterly hilarious. He also appeared in the 2006 American Idol-skewering farce American Dreamz from Pie director Paul Weitz.
Seann William Scott
The walking, talking, unchecked id of the American Pie franchise, Stifler (alias Seann William Scott) has had easily the most promising film career of any of his fellow East Great Falls alumni. His post-American Pie string of hits began with the his role in the first in another film franchise, Final Destination, and was followed by the stoner cult hit Dude, Where’s My Car?. He also scored big when he teamed up/butted heads with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the 2003 action comedy The Rundown. He’s also joined the still thriving Ice Age film series; voicing the rambunctious Crash. He recently starred in the hockey comedy Goon, which is generating a goodly amount of critical praise, and David Wain’s Role Models, which paired him with actor Paul Rudd.
Adorable, elfish Mena Suvari, who returns as Heather for this fourth installment, has been amassing a very interesting catalog of work since the first film in the franchise. In 1999, for example, American Pie wasn’t the only “American” film in which she appeared. She also played the haunting cheerleader in Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning film American Beauty. She also co-starred with James Franco in the Nicolas Cage-directed Sonny as well as a very powerful seven-episode stint on Six Feet Under. Recently, in keeping with this particular theme, she also turned up in a couple episodes of American Horror Story.
When producers of the Step Up franchise first announced that the third chapter in the urban dance saga would be filmed in 3D that increasingly gimmicky audience-baiting tool so popular these days in Hollywood reactions ranged from ambivalence to ridicule. I myself was rather skeptical having been subjected to my share of hastily produced 3D monstrosities a la The Last Airbender. But after watching the film I must concede that the trendy format actually acquits itself reasonably well in Step Up 3D. I only wish I could speak the same about the film's more traditional cinematic components like plot dialogue and acting.
Indeed it’s puzzling why director Jon Chu even bothered to include them. Even more so than its predecessor Step Up 2: The Streets Step Up 3D is fashioned almost purely as a showcase for its talented ensemble of dancers who shake and shimy their way through a variety of elaborate routines and to a pulsing soundtrack of over 50 different songs. In between the dance numbers all of which are genuinely impressive Chu strains awkwardly to maintain the pretense of Step Up 3D being an actual movie and not simply the extended music video we all know it to be. When the music stops the film flounders.
The storyline which marries extraordinary dancing with extraordinarily bad acting involves Step Up 2 holdover Moose (Adam Sevani) joining a team of dancers in their quest to save The Vault a vast New York City loft where dance-loving refugees from the street can practice their craft without having to worry about being harassed by cops the traditional enemies of the urban arts. Its idealistic founder Luke (Rick Malambri) is behind on his mortgage payments and the only way to earn enough money to avoid foreclosure is for the Pirates (as The Vault’s collection of dancers are known) to win a series of quasi-underground “battles ” in which different crews are pitted against each other in loser-goes-home dance duels.
How are these battles judged? What are the rules? I have no idea but compulsory elements appear to include lots of aggressive gesticulating toward the camera lens several menacing glances and at least one acrobatic maneuver followed by a provocative gesture -- e.g. a triple backflip with a double crotch-grab. Step Up 3D certainly doesn’t waste any time on such trivial questions not when there are inane subplots to resolve: Moose is struggling to balance his love of dance with busy life as a freshman at NYU and his best friend Camille (Alyson Stoner) is feeling neglected; Luke is hesitant to follow his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker; sultry newcomer (Sharni Vinson) is torn between conflicting loyalties to her old family at home and her new one at the vault; and some vindictive prettyboy named Julien (Joe Slaughter) from a rival crew is conspiring to bring them all down.
Who will prevail? Eventually it all comes down to Step Up 3D’s climactic Final Battle. By that time however the war between music video and ensemble drama has already reduced it to rubble.