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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.67%
Average: 17.71%
Pretty Bad: 14.58%
Total Crap: 4.17%

3 reviews, 78 user ratings

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Save the Last Dance
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Greg Muskewitz

"Stiles is good, Patrick is better. Potent because it's audience-conscious"
4 stars

Save the Last Dance is not unlike a lot of recent movies lately, whether the focus be on the talent/dance aspect of it (i.e. Center Stage) or the thematic device of dreams and perseverance (Finding Forrester, State and Main) and like Finding Forrester, the main male protagonist is not unlike an extension of Rob Brown's character, and not unlike State and Main, Julia Stiles is also in this, albeit the lead as opposed to a game-player in the former. Save the Last Dance by all means hits some clichés along the way, as is no surprise, but what is a surprise is its positive consciousness of the audience.

Sara (Julia Stiles) is a gifted ballerina. When her mother dies in a car crash on the way to watch Sara's audition to Julliard, she drops her dream and moves to the "ghettos" of Chicago with her all but absent-from-childhood father. ("The water's hot and the mice are friendly") The area she attends high school in and the people she goes to school with are predominately African-American, so naturally her friends back home are slightly weary. ("Have you seen anyone get shot yet?")

Quickly falling into acceptance with popular girl Chenille (Kerry Washington), Sara is welcomed into the hip-hop culture, but not without first butting heads with Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), a cocky know-it-all who ends up to Sara's (and our) surprise being Chenille's brother. Being part of this hip-hop scene, and though Chenille and her friends are not aware of Sara's past, they take her out to the club to get their grooves on. With the ability to catch on quick because of her formal training, Sara is able to impress on the dance floor and further grab the interest of Derek, who then wants to instruct her on extending her possibilities and skills.

A romance blooms, as if that wasn't expected to happen, and both are faced with the cocked-brow mentality of inter-racial dating. ("You're milk; no point tryin' to mix," or, in what their words is called "snowflaking") Derek runs into difficulties with one of his boys, Malakai (Fredo Starr), and Sara must deal with being assailed by one of Derek's ex-girlfriends.

There is a lot of mix and variety to Save the Last Dance that usually keeps it afloat during periods of mundacity. First off is the music, designated as hip-hop, and for plenty of movies that use it to bone up the soundtrack or cross-market an artist, the music in Save the Last Dance has got a good beat and is innocuous. It is never blasted or over-amplified, and the selection, though not every song can be a winner, is non-offensive and save of profanity. The choreography of the dances, whether it be hip-hop or ballet, look good and are mellifluous. As a disadvantage, instead of emphasizing the incessance of the dance, the look of the technique or the grace of the dances, it is minced up into rapid flash edits and obtrusive photography.

Something that the cinematography did nicely photograph without being obtrusive, and without the images being chopped up into bits, were two or three nicely directed fight scenes. Like the dances, these were carefully choreographed, and those scenes are convincing, realistic and rough. Slightly invigorating. The action is really socked to you, and the brute sound-effects are a satisfactory counterpart.

One of the movie's strengths in addition to the good show of dance, was the message of you get what you invest into your dreams; Sara's desire to go to Juilliard, Derek's determination to go to Georgetown and become a doctor. Director Thomas Carter is very aware, or attentive of his audience, but not in the hip couture of, say, Guy Ritchie or Doug Liman, but inasmuch, as he is promoting the positive and foreboding the simple mistakes we make and have the conscious power to control (pregnancy, criminal behavior). And Carter does this without pointing fingers or being preachy. There is a noticeable effort to keep things tame and mellow between the characters, even when conflicts break out. They shout "screw you" at each other, and although that is an admirable quality in this to try and shy away from excessive profanity, possibly to obtain a PG-13 rating (though not to exclude the usage of "bitch" at one another as a replacement of 'nigga' or 'dawg'), it still isn't quite believable. By exchanging "fuck you" for "screw you," it minimally loses the effectiveness and validity that one might expect from this urban tale, but that validity is easily pardonable for the right reasons. With each of the characters, whom I felt were strongly written by Duane Adler and Cheryl Edwards, they are far from caricatures and more like the real people we would expect to see. Every once in awhile, you may get the hint that a certain character has been dropped off into obscurity (like in The Family Man), but they aren't; they are wisely used in the fashion we would expect our friends to be in and around our lives. Patrick's character is like a brassier, louder version of Brown's character in Forrester, with the equal intellect and education; only they share different dreams and goals. But still both are determined and both are admired for it.

Naturally there are some expected stereotypes ("I'd like to introduce you to my girls, this is Portia, Tenisha, Loquisha," et al., and there are many to enumerate from in the press kit), just as the inter-racial issue is expected. The problem is, once this Jungle Fever element is introduced, it becomes banal and typical. For the majority of the movie, Save the Last Dance keeps away from sexual content, modestly hinting at it through the dance. But once the sexuality enters the frame and context of the movie, it lessens the potency going on. Because now, here you have all these extra and outside factors going on, whether it's issues with her father, the cajoling of her friends, the sex, etc., all these elements are making the movie lose track of the dance story and plot. It is obviously plot mechanics grinding away at work, but they place Save the Last Dance into a category it had been remaining away from. Other than that, the only other admissible piece of doubt in the plot line is Sara's quick and deep acceptance with Chenille and her friends. It is not as though the possibility of them becoming friends is a conflict, but the superficial, or forced way it happens is not believable, and any kid who has come into a school-in-progress (though do not mistake that for happening to me), can attest to the unrealisticness of it.

Save the Last Dance also had two really good performances by their respective leads. If it isn't already known, I enjoy Julia Stiles' work a lot as a mere testament to the enjoyable quality to some above-average teen movies (Down to You, 10 Things I Hate About You), and some good work in more adult-oriented movies (State and Main and although it wasn't good, she still was in Hamlet). Stiles really doesn't get to show off any extraordinary acting feats that we haven't already seen, but she dances spectacularly. I heard her on Jay Leno talking about her familiarity with modern dance, but having learn and challengingly study ballet. She has great form, and although I tend to believe that there was a double for some of the more challenging moves, Stiles did an excellent job. In this, more than before, I noticed her big-bones (although ever since I met her in person I've noticed her bigger-than-average head). It by no means is meant as an insult; like Christina Ricci, it is nice to see an actress who is more than just a waif. I think that her role here as Sara is another nice diversity to add to her growing body of work. Even better than Stiles here, although maybe a little over-dramatic with his physiognomy, was Thomas. I've liked him in what I've seen, mainly and mostly Cruel Intentions, but in the movies that I have seen him in, he has a maturity that a lot of younger actors don't. It lends him an extended and unabashed credibility. It serves as a means to bring him to higher places in movies, and I expect to see him rising to the top over the next few years. I also enjoyed Washington, who somewhat resembles Halle Berry, in a likable and well-spoken role.

And not to spoil it, just to those to make a mental note after you see it, to put it down to a generalization, I like the manipulation of the last quarter or so of the movie.

Final Verdict: B.

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originally posted: 01/13/01 09:05:54
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User Comments

5/20/11 Jeff Wilder Formulaic premise. But engaging leads make it work better than most. 4 stars
12/01/09 DiZHERE Julia Sties Is Maybe If Not Th Ugliest Bitch there is in acting 1 stars
10/31/08 Shaun Wallner Great Film! 5 stars
9/02/08 Nikki I like Julia Stiles- but the dancing is terrible! The Julliard audition is horrendous!! 2 stars
11/18/07 David Pollastrini Stiles looks great in this 3 stars
1/10/07 Nienke Very nice movie. I am totally in love with Sean Patrick ! 5 stars
5/03/06 Anthony Feor It is almost equivalent to a cheesy, steriotypical film 3 stars
3/03/06 karen morris best movie ever 5 stars
1/20/06 Wiseman It was entertaining 5 stars
12/23/05 cody a good movie about boy and girl finding out what can do in life, may have the last dance 3 stars
11/29/05 xXxJeSsxXx dis film is sik and i luv it...its ma fav! nuff luv 5 stars
10/16/04 Naka More stereotypes then a McDonald's ad, but watchable. 3 stars
10/08/04 random* formulaic 90s teen drama- the dancing could have been much better 3 stars
9/09/04 charmaine smith this film is amazing i watch it over and over again i will never get bored of it 5 stars
4/28/04 MJ I love the movie because a poor African American gets to live his dream and become a doctor 5 stars
4/26/04 cashe good 5 stars
4/13/04 Rachel i loved it, its funny, cute, makes you wanna dance, and makes you smile 5 stars
3/20/04 Nannette I loved this movie. It is a wonderful movie and I would recommend it to all 5 stars
12/18/03 Jemma i think this movie rocks! it is so inspiring! for the youth culture of today! 5 stars
11/26/03 Roof Sean Patrick Thomas is hott! 5 stars
7/24/03 Maggie This Movie Is Worth A Lot Of Bling Bling 5 stars
4/19/03 Jack Sommersby Acceptable formula stuff. The two engaging leads help. 3 stars
3/06/03 Dina Smith It was better than most teen-movies because it takes place in the dancing enviroment. 3 stars
9/26/02 Movie guy GREAT 5 stars
9/08/02 aMy TiGhT aZz MoViE 5 stars
9/06/02 Robyn Jamil-Walid Tight-ass movie indeed, Amy. Maybe Julia Stiles could be better after a good humongous dump 2 stars
8/07/02 april it was asbsolutely great 5 stars
7/20/02 ??? the best film ever 5 stars
6/27/02 Gretchen Seitz Wendy is right. There's plenty to dislike about this without being racist! 2 stars
6/26/02 lashawna copeland great movie/biance lawson was great 4 stars
6/18/02 Candace Troy Powers Guess we'll never know if Julia Stiles could play other than a sullen drippy pout. Too bad! 2 stars
6/17/02 Claxner Oxjaw Might've worked as hour soap opera episode. As is, interminable! 2 stars
6/17/02 Kakararaniniginjia Sinitraviwasanjofraz My gosz wainfu@ net mexmij fo mechve bojkmaag nomo kilphu taweag tintich wan pugvormh za bd 3 stars
6/16/02 Deanna Wilson I enjoy the movie very much and purchased the VHS. 5 stars
6/05/02 Wendy Mead I didn't like it either, but Conor's comment makes me ashamed of my race! 2 stars
6/01/02 aMy ( TiGhT aZz MoViE 5 stars
5/30/02 Robyn Jamil-Walid Tight-ass movie indeed, Amy. Maybe Julia Stiles could be better after a good humongous dump 2 stars
4/13/02 Conor Beardesley This piece of nigger loving trash must die 1 stars
4/11/02 laura i think it is a brilliant film, its really worth watching. it brings forward the real facts 5 stars
2/06/02 Claxner Oxjaw Might've worked as hour soap opera episode. As is, interminable! 2 stars
2/06/02 Hepta Hooty C'mon Julia Stiles - play other than a pol. correctness crusader! U might B A decent actres 3 stars
2/02/02 Kakararniniginjia Sinitraviwasanjofraz My gosz wainfu@ net mexmij fo mechve bojkmaag nomo kilphu taweag tintich wan pugvormh za bd 3 stars
1/20/02 tasha I absolutely love this movie! 5 stars
1/03/02 aMy TiGhT aZz MoViE 5 stars
10/02/01 Phoenix I actually thought this was a good movie. 4 stars
10/01/01 ashley cleaveland awesome!!!! i watch it everyday(almost) 5 stars
9/20/01 Siedah this movie is the bomb, it seems like i can relate to this movie in a lot of ways, but i'mc 5 stars
9/20/01 Gina Dis Movie iS Da BomB!!!!.... 5 stars
9/08/01 MEME good movie 5 stars
9/08/01 Osang very promising actress-- Julia Stiles 4 stars
8/17/01 hilary awesome 5 stars
8/02/01 Ashley Victoria Norman I think it was a fantastic movie and I loved watching every pecking moment in the movie. 5 stars
7/15/01 shahira The movie is great and awsome!!!! 5 stars
7/09/01 J Suprisingly I'm more with Greg on this one. 3rd act was questionable but this was good. 4 stars
6/25/01 Tzila Seewald Sara, make sure your music was alive b/c that's makes you alive! 5 stars
5/03/01 Erin Best movie ever 5 stars
4/30/01 Michelle Medza The best movie in the world mainly because of FREDO STARR 5 stars
4/27/01 Jessica Blythe Its the best movie in the world because of Sean patrick thomas. 5 stars
4/27/01 Nina , I can relate to the movie, so I'd have to say it was great. 5 stars
4/26/01 karri bailey it was realy good 5 stars
4/19/01 Tuwanda Turner I thought it was really good. So good I saw it twice. 5 stars
4/18/01 benita I love this movie/this movie is my #1 favorite 5 stars
4/17/01 Truth Will Set You Free I'd love to have sex with Julia Stiles. She has a beautiful face and an erection-making ass 1 stars
4/01/01 Dana This movie is the best I have seen it 9 times and wanna see it again and again. 5 stars
3/06/01 clarice i loved it because ive been wanting to take dance lessens but i cant find any. 5 stars
2/24/01 Angie Basak This is of the best movies made this year! It just makes me want to dance!!! : ) 4 stars
2/05/01 natasha looked like real people's lives 4 stars
1/29/01 Nic Kinda like "Centerstage," only WAY better! 4 stars
1/23/01 Sir Galahad MTV trendy Chick Flick...nothing else. 3 stars
1/22/01 Justine Hardy The movie was so good I cryed in parts of it, when it comes out on video I'm gona buy it. 5 stars
1/16/01 Desirée Kirlin it was interesting to watch 4 stars
1/15/01 Porcelain Hair Surprisingly not a cliched racism dud. Sean Patrick Thomas is solid, but Julia still lags 4 stars
1/15/01 Emily Ash This is the best movie I have seen in a while. They have everything you could ask for. 5 stars
1/15/01 OJ SImpson This is the feel food movie of the year. Needs more violence though. 5 stars
1/14/01 Jim Stiles looks like she was reading a cue card and not "acting" 1 stars
1/14/01 Kandi i think that the movie is well done and very one should go and see it..... 5 stars
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  12-Jan-2001 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Sep-2006


  05-Apr-2001 (M)

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