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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.41%
Worth A Look: 21.62%
Pretty Bad: 16.22%
Total Crap: 2.7%

5 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Take the Lead
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"All The Same Moves"
3 stars

The high school hallway resembles a possible shooting location for 'Hostel,' and as such, the corridor does lead to a dingy detention dungeon, home of those troubled teens that would simply get their acts together if only someone taught them how to… dance. Of course, a clean-cut teacher will indeed show these inner-city underdogs how to follow their dreams with a ballroom blitz of montages and relentless juxtaposition, and the entire situation will lead to a climactic competition, during which said students will earn the respect of those who doubted them. Chances are, you’ve already seen 'Take the Lead,' just with a different cast and crew. It is that generic and it is that predictable, yet it still works just enough for one to excuse the fact that it is utterly unnecessary. (And it's based on a true story, so there!)

The teacher is Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas), a classy ballroom instructor most frequently teaching WASPs. Always impeccably groomed, dressed, and behaved, he seems to be an effortlessly suave gentleman, gliding around Manhattan on his equally refined bicycle. On a nightly ride, he spots a student whacking his principal’s car repeatedly with a golf club, and the very next day, he decides to voluntarily cover detention, to the disbelief of the principal (Alfre Woodard) and the skepticism of the students, which include Rock (Rob Brown), the automobile assaulter. Of course, his uptown chivalry earns him nicknames like ‘punkass’ and ‘freak,’ and of course, he simply struts around with his attractive partner to show the teens just how sexy ballroom dancing can be. Soon enough, the whole group embraces the idea, especially when Pierre makes mention of a citywide competition, and eventually, they fuse his dusty instrumental music with their hip-hop tunes to create a unique blend of styles likely to shake up the dance community.

As by-the-numbers as the whole production is, it could have been much worse. The kids act like kids, even though their choreography seems to exceed their alleged ability at times. The melodrama never takes over, even though some of the threads come together as expected just in time for the big dance contest. The cultures clash, but not to an obnoxious degree (although the arrival of a novice girl from his sterile studio, who couldn’t be any whiter if she had mayo running through her veins, does make her somewhat of an exchange student). Director Liz Friedlander knows how to assemble everything competently, without missing a single beat or creating any new ones. Her music video experience does lend itself to the dance scenes, but all other material remains unremarkable, including the students.

With the exception of Brown (Finding Forrester), the cast is a relatively interchangeable mix of minorities, even including a token white boy. Meanwhile, Banderas keeps the suave steady and the accent thick as he reliably guides the teens to accomplishment, pride, respect, self-esteem, etc., although his motives for helping them out aren't made all that clear. To compensate, each and every student comes from a broken home, and the sight of them busting moves disgusts each and every white person, as if their behavior was none other than Satan possessing their bodies. Yet, despite all the subplots, stereotypes, and cliches, the film never bites off more than it can chew and breezes on by at a merciful pace.

As harmless as it is pointless, one should survive unscathed upon watching 'Dirty Dancin—' 'Stand and Delive—' 'Dangerous Mind—' 'Save The Last Danc—' 'Coach Carte—' 'Mad Hot Ballroo—' 'Take the Lead.' Sorry about that last part. Chalk it up to my two left hands.

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originally posted: 04/07/06 20:17:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/06/07 phvvpis girdbheaul 3 stars
5/14/07 fools♫gold Atributeto thethousandsof dance films after "Dirty Dancing", andincludesgoodhumor. 4/5 or.. 5 stars
6/23/06 captain craig the director missed alot of powerful opportunities, but it worked for me 4 stars
4/25/06 Pamela did get me worked up about dancing ballroom again, but was a little corny 3 stars
4/10/06 Bert Kaplan Hoaky at times,but generally fun to watch 4 stars
4/09/06 * Whoever thinks that this movie sucks, is stupid! It is one of the greatest movies ever! 5 stars
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  07-Apr-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Liz Friedlander

Written by
  Dianne Houston

  Antonio Banderas
  Alfre Woodard
  Dante Basco
  Lyriq Bent
  Rob Brown
  Ray Liotta

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