TAKE THE LEAD
**1/2 (out of 5)
April 7, 2006
Antonio Banderas as PIERRE DULAINE
Rob Brown as ROCK
Alfre Woodard as AUGUSTINE JAMES
Yaya DaCosta as LARHETTE
John Ortiz as MR. TEMPLE
Laura Benanti as TINA
Dante Basco as RAMOS
Jenna Dewan as SASHA
Marcus T. Paulk as EDDIE
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Liz Friedlander
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Ballroom dancing… Not exactly the phrase that gets the blood moving. Sure, it was fun to watch Stacy Keibler in her skimpy outfits on ABC, but I really wasn’t paying attention to the actual dancing when I peeked in on my wife watching “Dancing with the Stars.”
I’m not going to be pigheaded enough to say that ballroom dancing isn’t cool, or to say that it isn’t a sport. Try it sometime, and you’ll find that you use muscles you didn’t even know you had. My biggest problem is that I’m just tired of ballroom dancing. First we had “Shall We Dance,” both in Japanese and in English. Then we had “Mad Hot Ballroom.” Then there was the aforementioned “Dancing with the Stars,” which I consider to be the less cheesy modern version of the “Circus of the Stars.”
Is there anyone else out there who things we should give it a rest? The people who made “Take the Lead” think not.
This movie tells the true story of Pierre Dulane (Antonio Banderas), who became a detention teacher in a New York school. Instead of using conventional punishment for the biggest offenders of the school, he forces them to learn his passion – ballroom dancing. At first, the kids resist. But, of course, they soon get into the moves and learn the dances. There’s a stark rivalry between the detention kids and Dulane’s paying clients. To settle the score, they plan to duke it out on the dance floor at the climactic competition.
On the plus side, the characters aren’t nearly as annoying as they could be. There are the stereotypes, played to the hilt, including the white kid acting ghetto, the heavy girl he likes and the big, fat guy who thinks he’s not the right type to dance.
Banderas supports most of the film with his suave style. It’s not exactly a tour de force of acting, but his charm works for the role.
Still, “Take the Lead” stomps on its toes in several ways. The biggest trip-up it makes is trying to deal with too many social issues with the kids. You have one girl whose mother is a prostitute. There’s a guy whose brother was killed in a drug deal gone bad. There’s the black-versus-white issue as well as the rich-versus-poor. Again, all stereotypes are presented, but none are uniquely explored.
It’s impossible to avoid these issues when making a film that crosses so many lines. However, it is possible to tackle them in a more creative way. In the end, the movie uses kid gloves on the issues, never really putting the kids in any peril and making things work out too perfectly. Ultimately, “Take the Lead” feels more like a television movie than a feature film.
The movie should connect with its target market of teenage girls and ballroom dancing fans. I’m not sure how many of their boyfriends are going to want to sit through the film, but they might be persuaded to go to see the dancers in the short skirts. Think of it as watching Stacy Keibler on “Dancing with the Stars” all over again.