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|Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Darren Ashton|
scr Robin Ince, Carolyn Wilson
with Ben Miller, Kerry Armstrong, Nadine Garner, Denise Roberts, Jane Hall, Shayni Notelovitz, Clancy Ryan, Nick Twiney, Tara Morice, Barry Crocker, Paul Mercurio, Leo Sayer
release Aus 15.Mar.07,
Take a flying leap: Armstrong, Ryan, Garner and Miller (above); the girls prepare backstage (below)
With its nonstop flow of visual and verbal gags and its superbly sustained mock-doc style, this feels like a collision between Best in Show and a pre-teen Strictly Ballroom. It's also one of the most hilarious films of the year.
Mr Jonathon (Miller) is a teacher and choreographer who believes that dance can educate as well as entertain. His routines often centre on socio-political issues, so of course he rarely wins the big competitions. But his students are loyal. Tennille (Notelovitz) is pushed to the brink by her high-achieving mother (Armstrong); Grace (Ryan) needs to keep her mother (Garner) on track; and Tyson (Twiney) is a ringer brought in by Mr Jonathon's assistant (Roberts). Meanwhile, their fierce competitor, Miss Elizabeth (Hall), isn't resting on her laurels.
Virtually everything about this film is drop-dead hysterical, from the witty dialog to the jaw-dropping choreography (by Strictly Ballroom/Moulin Rouge's John O'Connell). Mr Jonathon's routines are based on evil scientists and sweatshop workers, and as he prepares for a big finale based on the war in Afghanistan, we nearly boil over with anticipation. And what we get is far beyond our expectations.
This absurdity works as well as it does because the characters are so well written and played. Miller has impeccable timing, even with the most surreal dialog, and he also delivers one of the best pratfalls in cinematic history. Armstrong invests herself so fully into her character that we only need to see her wildly insistent eyes to start giggling. Garner and Roberts also have utterly unforgettable characters who express themselves down to the smallest detail. And the kids are terrific as both actors and dancers.
Director Ashton keeps the story brisk and lively, relishing every inspired line of dialog ("Tennille is an Ikea of talent!") and blackly funny plot twist ("Miss Fiona has lost a foot!"). And underneath it all are some bracingly serious themes that actually come through loud and clear without overwhelming the fun. The finale is so shamelessly fabulous that we want to stand and applaud at the end. We really believe that a dance revolution just might change the world.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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