Shall We Dance
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Peter Chelsom
scr Audrey Wells
with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Omar Benson Miller, Anita Gillette, Lisa Ann Walter, Richard Jenkins, Nick Cannon, Tamara Hope, Stark Sands
release US 15.Oct.04,
UK 18.Feb.05
04/US Miramax 1h46

Shake your groove thing: Gere and Lopez -- with Walter and Tucci in the background.

gere lopez sarandon

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Shall We Dance What was Miramax thinking when it decided to remake Masayuki Suo's 1997 gem? American studios are, quite simply, incapable of the subtlety and understatement that made the Japanese original such an unforgettable classic. And this remake has one of the most painfully obvious scripts in recent memory.

John Clark (Gere) works a dull job in Chicago and travels home by commuter train to his loving and intelligent wife (Sarandon) and kids (Hope and Sands). But something's missing. And he places his hopes on the mysterious dance instructor Paulina (Lopez), gazing out from her studio along the El track. John decides to take dancing lessons without telling his wife. She gets suspicious and hires a private detective (Jenkins). Important Life Lessons ensue.

Honestly, Gere and Lopez are talented enough to know by now that romantic comedy is not their forte (avoid also Autumn in New York and Maid in Manhattan). Everyone else gives it their all; the only ones who engage us are John's fellow dance students Cannavale, Miller and especially the always-marvellous Tucci. But by over-explaining every scene and constantly restating the themes, the script undermines anything the cast can add.

Meanwhile, Chelsom continues his transformation into an A-list hack. After the lovely Hear My Song and The Mighty, his directorial style been straightjacketed into anonymous Hollywood slickness. The film looks lush, but there's simply no flair at all. The dance sequences are sometimes beautiful, but they're badly framed and uninvolving, while the photogenic, soft-focussed cast never manages to convince us that they're a bunch of hopeful losers.

But this is only part of the problem in a film so deeply, achingly unconvincing that we just want to slap everyone on screen! Maybe the main mistake was sticking so closely to Suo's plotline while jettisoning all of his delicacy. Perhaps screenwriter Wells should have made it a sexier, more lusty romance. No, I think they should have just saved their millions and encouraged everyone to watch the masterful original on DVD--or even Baz Luhrmann's wonderful Strictly Ballroom. That would have saved us the agony of sitting through this mess.

cert 12 themes, language 21.Jan.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Shall We Dance Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I truly enjoyed this movie - and when we left the theatre, I asked my husband if he thought this movie would do to ballroom dance what Saturday Night Fever did for disco dance. A great love story - and the dance moves ain't too bad either." (28.Oct.04)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall