David Oliver: It’s funny how when, right after the movie finished, and we  were discussing how we were going to tackle this tag team review and we joked that we had to start with the live opening musical number (more on that later) before the actual movie began.  And I came to realize that this probably wouldn’t be just a regular review of a movie, but of the entire night, because it really was a gas.  Filled with music, film, Na’vi, and a red carpet populated by people we admittedly couldn’t identify.  We’re both well aware that the experienced Chewer might immediately wonder, “Why is there a tag team review of StreetDance 3D of all things?  Such experiences are usually saved for flicks like Iron Man 2, Inception, The Professional 2: Mathilda or the like. 

Indeed, StreetDance 3D isn’t the kind of film that would generally merit such coverage, from a single reviewer even.  Were it not the opening film of the 3D Film Festival: Hollywood, and Mr. Miller and I hadn’t decided to both attend the screening, it would be one of those movies on the CHUD “Opening This Week” banner that would never have a “Reviewed” sash across it like a Miss Universe contestant.  But it was.  And we did.  And we are.  So the long and short of it is: this is a formula movie that sticks to it religiously, albeit with the extra dimension and a spot of fish and chips.  By that I mean it’s a quite British movie with an all British cast, with a nonetheless all-American playbook, to say nothing of the American apparel.  I caught several of the characters in Yankees, Reds, Dodgers and Astros caps.  Does Manchester United not have hype gear or something?  Anyway, if you’ve seen any of the Step Up movies, You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, Center Stage, old school dance movies like Breakin’ or Flashdance, you’ve already seen StreetDance 3D.

Joshua Miller:
First I just want to say that if Devil
warranted a three person tag team, I think two people for the opening
night of 3DFF is perfectly sane. I agree though, it was a nice opening.
I hope 3DFF’s bold claims that they will be back year after year proves
correct. I think the LA Film School is a dandy home for it too, as the
festival is aesthetically about the technology and future possibilities
more so than just cinema. The school’s high-tech layout gave things an
appropriate vibe.

But that live opening number, man. Yeesh. Mr.
Oliver is referring to an Oscar style song and dance number featuring a
Justin Timberlake-esque vocalist singing about the death of 2D, while
dancers (dressed as Na’vi, Alice & the Mad Hatter, and I believe
Step Up 3D
goons), pranced around him. I respected the weirdness of the moment,
but I felt bad for those involved. In another (drunker) setting I think
the bit could’ve gone over big, but it seemed like our crowd was not
emotionally prepared for such shenanigans.

Anyway: StreetDance
I think you’re being very kind by merely listing a swath of films it is
derivative off. I didn’t think it was derivative of the dance subgenre
as much as it was a straight-up knock off of
Step Up 2 The Streets, only with adorable accents, worse dancing, and worse music. Minus the home-life strife from Step Up 2, StreetDance
had essentially the same plot, characters, and story beats, right down
to the gawky white kid who impresses everyone with his secret moves at
the end of the film.

David: Heh, God bless those performers, especially that Na’vi pair, who had to be in that get up the whole night.  They were very nice though and the make-up was certainly no “homeless guy in a 99 Cents Store Halloween costume shilling out in front of Grauman’s” deal, that’s for sure.  But yeah, the opening bit did quite come off as a cross between a bad Glee homage to Avatar / Alice in Wonderland and that laughable interpretive dance of Sound Editing bit from the Oscars about a decade ago. Getting back to StreetDance, there honestly wasn’t an original concept to the thing except for relocating it to Blighty. Catching these teen dance films isn’t usually high on my list, and certainly you nor I are the target demographic for movies of this kind.  However, I think even the intended audience would be quick to see that they’ve seen this movie a good half dozen times in the last few years. 

The basic premise is familiar: a crew of whatever type (dance, cheerleading, steppers, band, etc.) having to reform or join up with outsiders, new members or former rivals in order to contend for a championship.  In this instance it’s a London street dance crew that is under new management in the form of the very comely Carly, (Nichola Burley), the dumpee of the former leader, Jay (Ukweli Roach), who needs a time out from both her and the crew. With the British National Street Dancing Championships happening in just a couple of fortnights, and with nearly half of her team having followed Jay’s decision to leave, Carly is faced with the task of adding new personnel and finding a place for them to rehearse. 

A fateful meeting with Helena (Charlotte Rampling), the matron of a prestigious local ballet academy, fills both needs, providing that Carly take five of Helena’s ballet dancers and incorporate them into her unit for the championships.  Helena’s thinking is that her dancers lack passion and are in danger of not succeeding in their upcoming auditions for top ballet schools.  The questions then becomes: Will Carly find the determination it’ll take to mesh the two very disparate entities into one cohesive unit or not?  It’s all very Bring It OnMate.

Joshua: We may not be pre-teen girls, but I have seen every movie we’ve mentioned in this article thus far, so I don’t think I’m totally out of the demo. I dig dance flicks. I am a shameless champion of Step Up 2, a perfect example of how to take a rote concept and pump the fuck out of it to get a fantastically entertaining film. StreetDance managed to get into a groove towards the end, but the first 45 minutes are a real ordeal of poor screenwriting and limp execution. Carly was indeed comely, but she was a horrible protagonist. We’re never given a reason to like her or want to see her succeed. We’re also barely introduced to any of our gazillion characters (most of whom don’t display any kind of discernible traits until the film is nearly over). It almost seems like the film is trying to rely on how derivative it is, wanting us to fill in the gaps ourselves, “Oh, you know this type already. You get the gist.”

Of course, at the end of a day, these dance movies are like porno. People don’t care about the story and characters too much. How was the fucking? I was having a hard time determining if StreetDance had lame choreography or bad direction. At times it seemed like one or the other, at other times it seemed like both. A perfect example of the film’s clumsy style is what should have been StreetDance‘s signature scene, the dance-off when the street kids first meet the ballet kids: ballet vs. street. While far from original, this is the kind of scene that is always fun no matter how many variations we’ve seen of it. I didn’t have fun though. Nothing impressive was happening. The dance moves felt like ad-libs, and the presentation felt lazy. My mind actually started to wander.

David: Can’t argue too much of the above, especially the dancing.  While serviceable, it still couldn’t trump what I saw in Stomp the Yard and You Got Served, the former of which featured some shit I didn’t know was even humanly possible. As these movies progress, and since they can’t seem to change the recipe much, they have to get by on the physicality and outdo the dance film before it. StreetDance wasn’t up to the task on that note. First time co-directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini had nothing new to offer in shooting the dance numbers, especially the tepid ballet vs. street dance scene you mentioned.  This is readily apparent in the finale when they made use of snippets of 3D rotational shots that I’m pretty sure looked not great, if they had used more than about .37 seconds of each one.  The film wasn’t really shot for 3D also.  The 3D was alright, as shot in Paradise FX’s Tri Delta cameras, but there just wasn’t the capitalization by the directors on the typical advantages that the medium offers in their shot selections. 

You’re also correct about the characters, although I don’t entirely agree about Burley.  I think she gave more affability to Carly than was warranted by the script.  While the character didn’t stand out whatsoever, I can’t completely fault the young lady portraying her.  I may have been taken in by the nubile body and British accent, but I didn’t find myself as down on her performance as you probably did.  Everybody else, though: b-boy movie stereotypes and mostly non-entities.  One thing I did note about the competing crew, The Surge (the dance group, Flawless, that appeared on Britain’s Got Talent), I did appreciate that they weren’t the cliched “evil dance crew,” even though they would come onto a scene like something akin to a Nation of Islam group: all business, no bullshit.  If they had been the “Dark Side” street crew, though, I probably would have checked out of the movie immediately and completely.  A defection to that crew also was zero surprise.

Would like to give a thanks to our hosts at 3DFF, especially our media contacts, Mel and Hilda, who were more than accommodating to us despite the craziness of the evening for them. 

Joshua: I bet you just liked the way Burely said mirror (mur-ruh).

This is the exact kind of 3D movie that keeps people saying 3D is just a gimmick, and thus wouldn’t have been my choice to open 3DFF. It felt like the filmmakers didn’t really know how to capitalize on the technology, which is odd because it seems like playing with perspective, depth, and foreground movement would be obvious enough when dealing with a mutli-person dance crew. Ironically enough, I would describe most of the dance scenes as looking flat. I’d actually be curious to see how the scenes played in 2D. They might have looked better.

I give the film 6 out of 10, but I’ll give 3DFF 8 out of 10 thus far. Plenty more to the festival than just this mundane film.

David: I concur: film, 6 out of 10, 3DFF so far, 8 out of 10