STEP UP 3 — ★★ — Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson; rated PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity); in general release

As if we needed any further proof that the whole 3-D movie craze may have reached ridiculous heights (or depths), there's "Step Up 3."

The third film in the inexplicably popular, street-dancing series is being shown theatrically in either 2-D and in 3-D. (A recent screening for the film was shown in 3-D; this review is based on that.)

But using 3-D to tell this trite story is, as they say, like putting lipstick on a pig. The technology is used to "splash" water on audiences, or to "thrust" bubbles, balloons, hands and feet into their faces. Oh, and it also serves as the instrument for a bit of shameless product placement.

The funny thing is, the dance scenes are energetic and are fun to watch. However, the overuse of 3-D gimmickry is headache-inducing, and the plotting is just as inane as that in the earlier movies. If you can remember the stories for "Dodgeball" and "Never Back Down," this is essentially the same thing. Only dumber.

The third film follows a crew of New York dancers, the House of Pirates, who are led by would-be filmmaker Luke (Rick Malambri).

He and the Pirates are in danger of losing their warehouse/home/club if they don't win a prestigious competition, the World Jam.

But they may have a secret weapon. He's Moose (Adam G. Sevani), an incoming college freshman who claims that he's put dancing behind him. That is, until Luke and the other Pirates offer him an opportunity to express himself with his feet.

Their opponents, the House of Samurai, don't play fair, though. They're led by Luke's former pal, Julien (Joe Slaughter). And there's a wild card in all this: Natalie (Sharni Vinson), who seems conflicted about her feelings for Luke and the Pirates crew.

The filmmakers would have been better off if they had simply dispensed with the story and also Malambri, whose dancing abilities are as suspect as his acting.

Malambri is usually lurking in the background during the dance sequences, or obvious dance doubles are used for closeups.

Compare him with Sevani, who is not only likable but shows off some impressive moves.

Sevani and television star Alyson Stoner are an appealing onscreen couple. And by the way, they're reprising their roles from the second and first movie, respectively.

"Step Up 3" is rated PG-13 and features scattered strong profanity, suggestive language and dance moves, as well as derogatory language and slurs. Running time: 107 minutes.