It takes just an enticing pair of Nike sneakers to lead NYU freshman Moose (Sevani) down the rabbit hole into a musical wonderland. Without warning, this economics-major-cum-street-dancer is showing up a mean-looking mover from the House of Samurai and endearing himself to Luke (Malambri), leader of a rival, more inclusive hoofer crew called the Pirates. The plot's as old as Mr. Miyagi---train like crazy, win the championship, get the girl---but then again, we don't go to Astaire and Rogers productions for their revolutionary narrative contortions.
Yes, I've invoked the holy duo in describing the third entry of a Disney-sanctioned franchise, and not just because Moose and his bestest (should-be-girl)friend, Camille (Stoner), pay glorious homage to them in a single-shot strut down a Manhattan side street. This is jump-'n'-jive cinema done right, populated by actual, likable dancers instead of Hollywood celebrities trying too hard...and with cinematography to match. It's possible that the use of 3-D cameras forced director Jon Chu to compose his frames more rigorously: Head-to-toe coverage is favored over piecemeal body shots, and the added dimension gives the numerous New York locations the enveloping feel of old-time stereoscopic prints---a nice complement to the pop-modern folks inhabiting them. Technology aside, the film has an aura about it, an optimistic yet still complicated belief in people and in life that is in truly short supply. It's a contemporary movie musical that makes you feel genuinely sky-high.---Keith Uhlich
Watch the trailer