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Shall We Dance? (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary with director. Peter Chelsom. Beginner's Ballroom. Behind the scenes. The Music of Shall We Dance. Pussycat Dolls 'Sway' music video. Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Peter Chelsom.

GIVEN the success of TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, it's fair to say that Shall We Dance stands a much better chance of waltzing its way into viewers hearts than it did in America, where it attracted a decidedly lukewarm response.

The film, from Peter Chelsom, is admittedly a remake of the far superior Japanese movie of the same name (starring Koji Yakusyo and Tamiyo Kusakari), but it's an amiable affair that makes the most of a strong ensemble cast, despite some flat-footed performances.

Richard Gere provides the catalyst for the tale as Chicago lawyer, John Clark, a man who has become bored with the old 9 to 5 routine and 'trapped' in a safe marriage.

Desperate to find something more to life, he suddenly finds himself captivated by a beautiful face in the window of a dance studio and impulsively gets off the train to sign up for dance lessons.

The face in question belongs to Jennifer Lopez's heartbroken dance instructor, Paulina, and she gradually draws Clark into the world of ballroom dancing, providing him with an innocent but much-needed outlet for his day-to-day frustrations.

But while Clark finds happiness in the tango-foxtrot, he feels too ashamed to tell his wife (Susan Sarandon), who subsequently begins to suspect he is having an affair and hires a private investigator (Richard Jenkins) to prove it.

The ensuing comedy unfolds at a leisurely pace and is considerably enlivened by some wonderful supporting performances and Chelsom's wise decision not to give in to the obvious.

Hence, Gere and Lopez do not share a big-screen romance and Clark's journey of self-discovery doesn't always follow the path you think it might.

Of the support players, the ever-reliable Stanley Tucci positively steals the show with his larger-than-life depiction of Clark's co-worker, who shares a similar passion for dancing, while the likes of Bobby Cannavale and Richard Jenkins make the most of under-written roles.

There are also some genuinely funny moments (witness Gere and Tucci's toilet-based dance lesson), as well as the odd gesture of feel-good romance.

Yet as enjoyable as the overall experience remains, there are several things that threaten to ruin the dance.

Lopez, for instance, comes across as far too earnest for the role and seems to be taking it far too seriously, while the far better Sarandon is reduced to a relative bit-part player and feels like a missed opportunity.

This is largely because the film offers too many sub-plots that it simply doesn't have time to explore, thereby reducing the impact of several support players.

What's more, the overblown finale is far too 'Hollywood', clearly going for An Officer and a Gentleman-style denouement that plays on Gere's past work, rather than anything subtle like the original.

So while such tactics will doubtless have the romantics swooning, the sceptics may find themselves reaching for the sick bag.

That said, Shall We Dance possesses enough charm about it to side-step the majority of its failings, emerging as a suitably cute date movie for those who seek nothing more than a little sugar-coated seduction.

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