Sunday, September 03, 2006

TAKE THE LEAD

Antonio Banderas Take the Lead Directed by Liz Friedlander
Starring Antonio Banderas
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN!

AN UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING!

Some movies are meant to be movies. And some are not. Specifically, this applies to films based on real people or real situations. They often get Hollywoodized (i.e., they stray far from the actual person or situation) but remain entertaining. CINDERELLA MAN is a recent case in point. It delved into the family of a hardworking and hard-hitting boxer during the depression. The subject matter was interesting and scripted well.

Now we come to TAKE THE LEAD, a story based real-life ballroom dance king Pierre Dulaine, a man who brought the foxtrot, the waltz and the tango to New York area schools. Antonio Banderas plays Pierre and does so admirably. He can dance his fine Mexican butt off and is a believable Dulaine.

But where the story falls apart is in its telling, not necessarily the acting. Although several of the young men and women who secured parts in the film were less than stellar, they did contain the appropriate energy and distrust of anything new one would hope to see from teenagers in high school. The story, however, was a mess.

Screenplay writer
Dianne Houston is more appropriate for television productions rather than full length feature films (from what I’ve seen of her current resume), and her talent here was seriously lacking. The story of the kids’ lives beyond dance is glossed over far too often, as is Pierre’s past history (the death of his wife is only touched on, as is a budding relationship with a fellow dancer where he works).

The dance sequences are good but don’t come close to
CHICAGO or MOULIN ROUGE. Even the ending competition is "just okay."

I don’t mind films that focus on real people and real situations, but they need to be told in a fashion that allows the viewer to get in tight with the characters, not just the dance moves. Which leads me to believe that his would’ve made an excellent documentary. I understand there’s already been a short documentary made about this fascinating man and his dance instructions with kids. But a full length documentary would’ve held my attention better than Take The Lead. I don’t think this story — in its present form — should’ve been made into a feature film.

Click here for the Take the Lead movie trailer!

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