The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Take The Lead

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Judy Thorburn

Take The Lead

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Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

"TAKE THE LEAD" - FLAWED BY TOO MANY MISSTEPS

I suppose much credit can be given to TV’s high rated, very popular dance competition, Dancing With The Stars for the resurging interest in ballroom dancing, a truly beautiful and graceful art form. Last year’s documentary Mad Hot Ballroom also showcased the dance style in which many of New York City’s elementary school students took part in the American Ballroom Theatres Dance program founded by Pierre DuLaine.  Now, Take The Lead is riding the tide as a movie “inspired” by Pierre DuLaine’s true story. However, screenwriter Dianne Houston chose to utilize creative license by transforming his story into a fictionalized account. As a result, audiences must suspend belief and accept the flawed storyline. To begin with instead of elementary school the subjects are changed to older high school students with hip hop mixed in to obviously attract that age group.

The always charismatic Antonio Banderas brings passion to his role as Pierre DuLaine, a former professional ballroom dancer with his own upscale dance studio, who one evening while riding his bicycle, happens to witness a young man smashing a parked car belonging to the student’s principal.  Soon he is visiting the principal, played by Alfe Woodard, where he winds up volunteering to teach ballroom dancing to a group of out of control, ill mannered, self described school rejects, who are forced to spend time in detention in the school’s basement.

The setting is one of New York’s inner city high schools, where a majority of the students are ethnic minorities, poor underprivileged kids with a bad home life, influenced by crime or drugs. Enter DuLaine, who believes that teaching the ballroom dance moves of the tango, fox trot, merengue, waltz and swing will change the lives of his students by installing enough confidence, self worth, dignity and respect to get on the positive track.  Of course, at first the students view the well-groomed, well-mannered DuLaine like someone from another planet who has entered their life with something foreign and unwanted. Dance to these kids, which they are quick to show off, are the kinetic moves of street dance that accompany the brash sounds of rap and hip hop music.  But when DuLaine brings in his top dancer from the studio to accompany him in a sexy tango, the kids are turned on by something they have never seen before. By keeping it real and refusing to cater to their level of negative attitude, it doesn’t take too long before he wins them over.  Moreover, DuLaine hopes to discipline the students and instill in them the belief, and not have a doubt, that they have what it takes to compete in and actually win the upcoming annual ballroom competition, which offers a $5,000 grand prize.

The message about personal achievement and gaining self-respect is certainly a good one. The problem is with the delivery. The cast is filled with an assortment of clichéd stereotypes in every shape, size and ethnicity, with a few given a sideline subplot that lack a credible outcome, to say the least. Those involve Caitlin (Lauren Collins), the rich young white girl (the token WASP) who becomes part of DeLaine’s program, Rock (Rob Brown) the troubled outcast who seems headed for a life of crime, and LaRhette (Ya Ya DaCosta) the pretty black girl, connected to Rock by tragedy who is forced to care for her baby sister, because her whore mom is rarely around. The rest of the mostly cocky bunch of teens include the corn rolled red haired white boy who thinks he’s black, the hot and sassy latina, the conceited know it all Hispanic, and two who are very overweight (OK, fat!).  A standout is Ya Ya DaCosta (a former runner up from America’s Next Top Model), who shines in her movie debut, proving more than being another pretty face she can also act.

Take The Lead employs a worn out formula we’ve seen before, so knowing where it is headed is a no brainer.  However, I felt cheated by expecting to see Banderas take to the floor and wow us with his dance moves.  That doesn’t happen. Camera angles and clever editing gives the illusion in his few dance sequences. But it is obvious that it is his accomplished partner doing all the leg work while he mostly stands in a pose or two as she dances rings around him.  The actors who portray the detention dancers in training give energetic, heartfelt performances, although they are clearly years past their teens. For sure they can dance and the best film moments are watching them let loose in the choreographed sequences, of which there is not enough.

The bottom line is a scattered script filled with many scenes that are illogical and resolutions that aren’t believable.  Pierre DuLaine’s real story is truly inspiring and the proof is in the pudding.  His program that has been integrated in New York City’s elementary schools has reached thousands of underprivileged students and made a difference in their lives, which goes to show the power of dance. Take the Lead may have its heart in the right place, starts off on the right foot, but with so many wrong moves misses the mark.