“StreetDance 3D” proved a surprise smash at U.K. cinemas and did healthy biz abroad, beating “Step Up 3” to the punch as the first stereoscopic dance movie. Now “StreetDance 2” aims to repeat the trick, throwing bolder moves in the direction of the international market. Not only has the action shifted from London to Paris, and the urban beats given a fresh Latin flavor, but the cast features real-life street-dance stars from across Europe. The magic formula of dance plus 3D may prove less potent in Blighty the second time around, but pic should elicit high scores on foreign shores.
A major cast update brings in a new male protag, Ash (Falk Hentschel), who is humiliated by Invincible, a world-champion dance crew led by the arrogant Vince (Anwar Burton). Determined to prove his worth, Ash teams up with manager Eddie (principal “StreetDance” holdover George Sampson) to assemble an eclectic roster of talent from Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Ibiza, Rome, Lyon and an unspecified location in the Swiss Alps. Together, they hole up in an appropriately funky Paris dorm for six weeks of rehearsals ahead of a big competition known as the Final Clash.
Inciting incident occurs when Ash and Eddie visit underground salsa club Manu’s, named for its owner (Tom Conti, doing his best to communicate seen-it-all-before, crinkle-eyed charm). Inside the venue’s implausibly located boxing ring, the two find the new rhythms that will set their crew apart. More specifically, Ash locates the sizzlingly sexy Eva (Sofia Boutella), Manu’s niece, who will teach him the new steps and more.
Returning directorial duo Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini never saw an iconic European building that couldn’t be co-opted into brightening up a shot, sometimes with scant regard for geographical consistency. Boutella and the buff, agreeably bland Hentschel are likewise plenty easy on the eye, and their bodies are shown to particular fine effect when they dance, separately, after a big fight. Pic’s youthful target audience may indulge this street-Latin fusion as groundbreaking, but they may be less accepting of screenwriter Jane English’s final-act jeopardy, which feels contrived even by the lax standards of the genre.
The major casualty of the brisk running time is individual characterization of the supporting players. Having each been introduced performing in their home cities, Skorpion (Brice Larrieu), Killa (Ndedi Ma-Sellu), Legend (Niek Traa), Terabyte (Kaito Masai) and friends are given nothing interesting to do except complain about their Paris accommodations, make skeptical noises about the crew’s new Latin direction, and finally rally to help heal the inevitable rift between Ash and Eva. Oh, and they have a pillow fight. Conti’s Manu is arguably the most defined character, and his avuncular concern for Eva offers up some mild conflict with Ash, including a chili-eating duel with an amusing spaghetti Western-style score.
The soundtrack, predictably, is a big plus, with music supervisor Lol Hammond sneakily pandering to any tween-accompanying dads, with dance cuts that reference the Stone Roses’ “Fool’s Gold” and Primal Scream’s “Come Together.” In a blatant repeat of a winning formula, the big romantic moment plays out to the plaintive rock strains of Morning Runner’s “Burning Benches,” echoing the similarly evocative “Life Is Beautiful” by Vega 4 at the exact same moment in the original “StreetDance.”
Acrobatic dance performances maintain the pic’s pace through choreography rather than cutting, effectively showcasing the assembled talents. Perhaps more surprising is the restraint in the use of 3D; apart from the explosions of popcorn and fireworks that bookend the film, depth of field is largely achieved through production design, with repeated use of vertical elements — girders, poles, lampposts and the legs of upturned chairs stacked on tables in Manu’s club — to delineate the space. Numbers performed on checkered, tiled floors, or on stages marked into a rectangular grid, augment the effect.