Rating: ★★☆☆☆

In case it wasn’t blandly ineffective enough the first time round, the inexplicable British hit Streetdance 3D now has a three-dimensional follow-up, one which layers on the very sexiest Salsa dancing, but still struggles with insufferably bad acting and a thin, shopworn script.

After American streetdancer Ash (Falk Hentschel) loses an important dance-off for his team against rival crew Invincible, he finds himself globe-trotting in order to build a team that can beat them at an upcoming dance competition. When Ash chances upon stunning Salsa dancer Eva (Sofia Boutella), he may have his answer, if he can find a way to successfully meld the streetdance style with Eva’s contrasting one.

While few people are going to expect robust narrative craft from a 3D dance film, there’s such a stupefying lack of effort put into the characters and the story here that it makes the likes of Step Up seem like a work of grand story craft. While there are at least three dance scenes that truly dazzle – for Boutella is a magnetic, charismatic presence, and carries the film’s better moments almost solely – 20 minutes of impressive dancing is simply not enough to make an 85-minute film worth watching.

Aside from Boutella’s Eva, nobody else is really worth bothering with; Ash is a charmless lug of a protagonist who gets saddled with delivering a leaden, exposition-heavy voice over narration, while the other dancers are largely walking stereotypes, except of course for Elisabetta Di Carlo’s character, who appears to be an uncanny Amy Winehouse impersonator.

Virtually all story scenes fall flat; the love story is contrived and painfully predictable, while some attempts at comedy – such as a chili eating contest between Ash and Eva’s uncle (played by Tom Conti) – are stultifyingly misguided. A late-day hospital trip also feels like a desperate attempt to shoehorn some pathos and drama into proceedings, a fruitless effort given how translucent the characters are.

Even at its most basic level, the dancing, while impressive in fits and starts, hardly lives up to the promise of its title, given the dispiriting lack of actual street dancing going on. The majority of the dances are relegated to darkened Salsa clubs and drab arenas; why are there not more scenes taking place around famous Parisian monuments? Step Up 3D made far better use of its third dimension this way, whereas Streetdance 2 doesn’t seem the least bit fussed.

Otherwise, the 3D is used only for cheap gimmickry; during Ash’s opening humiliation, CGI popcorn flies in front of the camera, and during a cheeky, “playful” pillow fight, the screen is festooned with feathers. As might become a running gag for the series, you get a 3D hat thrown in your face again, but on the whole, the flourish adds little depth and feels fatuously, crassly tacked on.

While the poor writing suggests a dearth of ideas, this is also a film struggling to make do with a paltry budget; why else would a scene in which a dance club is raided by the police not feature a single cop or police car, and instead have to settle for what is obviously just a red light flashing in the actor’s faces and an ambulance siren vaguely whirring in the distance.

Like almost all dance films, Streetdance 2 has failed to find extremely talented dancers who are also even remotely credible actors.

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This article was first posted on April 2, 2012