If a picture really is worth a thousand words, then the absolutely stunning visuals of Step Up 3D should have been enough to keep the actors from actually talking. Oh well.

Instead, we’re forced to sit through acting and dialogue that’s so tedious and melodramatic it makes really bad soap operas look like Citizen Kane— but believe me, if you can endure it (and you can), the payoff is well worth it.

To call Step Up 3D eye-popping and entirely groundbreaking isn’t an exaggeration. Director John Chu (who also helmed Step Up 2: The Streets) is like a kid in a candy store with his new toy– a 3D camera.

The choreography alone would have been worth the price of admission (especially for those who put So You Think You Can Dance near the top of their list of favorite TV shows), but Chu takes things to a whole other stratosphere visually.

What starts as a series of cute little 3D tricks (popping bubbles, releasing a hundred balloons, tooling through Times Square at night) quickly becomes an exercise in how to do 3D the right way.

The plot (not that it’s important) finds Step Up 2‘s Moose (Adam Sevani) starting his first year at NYU alongside Camille (Alyson Stoner) from the original Step Up. During freshman orientation he gets sidetracked and accidentally ends up in a dance-off with the House of Samurai, the reigning baddies on the poppin’ and lockin’ circuit. Luke (Rick Malambri), the leader of the good-guy rival crew, The Pirates, notices Moose and recruits him into the mix. And none too soon– the crew’s home/practice space is in danger of getting foreclosed on, and the only way to save it is to win World Jam, the citywide dance competition.

If you’re sensing a little bit of a Karate Kid storyline, you’re right on the money– the scrappy, homegrown Pirates must face the polished Samurai (in matching ominous black outfits, no less), but there’s still something missing. Turns out, that ‘something’ is Natalie (Sharni Vinson, from the Australian soap Home and Away)– a hot-as-a-firecracker dancer who gives the Pirates the extra oopmh they need to make it. I could go on and on, but really… we came here for the dancing, right?

From the opening scenes straight through until the big dance-off, Step Up 3D offers some of the most mind-blowing choreography put on film. But even more off-the-chain is the cinematography. Chu shot each frame of every dance number with one thing in mind– giving the audience something they’ve never seen before in a 3D flick.

All of the routines are shot with a hyper-crisp focus, which gives the movie an almost strobe-like feel, and the 3D aspects will make your head spin. In one preliminary dance-off, the Pirates face the Gwai crew on a water-soaked stage, and if you’re not brushing water drops off your 3D shades by the end of it, then there’s something wrong with you.

The capper of the movie (even more than the ultra-big final dance-off for all the marbles) is a phenomenal scene set to Jerome Kern’s 1930s standard, “I Won’t Dance”. In one, single 3-minute shot, Moose and Camille dance through the streets of New York. It’s a superbly choreographed number that will leave you wondering exactly how many takes it took to get it right (17, as it turns out).

My suggestion is to treat Step Up 3D the way some people watch the Super Bowl– sure there’s a football game on, but the commercials are really what they’re there to see. Consider the dance sequences to be the ads, and the story line the game. Whenever people start talking, feel free to use the restroom or get a refill for that tub o’ popcorn. But keep and ear out for the music. When it starts, run back to your seat and pop those 3D glasses on.

You might just be blown away.

3.5/5 stars