Pros:Performances, themes, dance scenes
Cons:More about the other students would have been nice
The Bottom Line: While ballroom dance lovers will enjoy this film, it will appeal to anyone who likes an uplifting story.
Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) owns his own ballroom dance studio. It caters to wealthy clients, and is struggling but slowly becoming successful.
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On his way home from an exhibition one night, he witnesses a student vandalizing the principal's car. The next school day, he shows up, not to turn the student in, but to volunteer to help by teaching ballroom dance.
The principal (Alfre Woodard) is reluctant to allow the non-teacher near the kids. This is a rough inner city school, and she doesn't think he can handle it. But she is desperate for someone to take over the detention, so she agrees to let him do that and handle the kids however he wants.
Naturally, the kids don't take well to Pierre's presence in their lives. They enjoy their hip hop music and dance and have no use for him and his old music and formal attire. But Pierre will not give up that easily and he slowly begins to win them over. But will it be enough?
Anybody who has seen this kind of movie before already knows the answer, and this movie provides little new in that regard. Still, even though we know the ultimate outcome, we can't help but get sucked into the story along the way.
Most of the kids stay strictly in detention, with only glimpses into their life outside of school. Two students do get spotlighted, and their stories of personal tragedy and hard home lives serve to show just how bad all the students' lives are. That's not to say we don't come to care for the others. By the end, it's easy to root for all the kids to succeed, not only in the final dance competition but also in life in general.
As the students begin to warm up to Pierre, the movie quickly becomes fun. While there is plenty of straight ballroom in the story, the students begin to interject some of their moves into it as well. These create some fun scenes, especially the climatic tango.
The movie has some dark moments, especially when dealing with the realities of living in the inner city. However, before things get too dark, the story pulls back and has a fun scene that lightens the mood. While in some movies this might spoil the theme or story, here it works well as it highlights the themes.
The obvious theme is the one preached by Pierre multiple times through the film. Learning what you can do gives you confidence in yourself. Pierre uses ballroom dance to do this, but it just as easily could have been something else. However, there's also the reminder that all it takes is one person to show interest in helping someone else to turn a life around.
All this is enhanced by the performances. Antonio Banderas is strong as the lead. The actors playing the students also do a good job, giving their characters as much life as the script allows. And it's easy to tell everyone had fun with the dance numbers.
While the subject is nothing new, the movie keeps the viewer entertained. The themes help pull this movie out of the cliches and into a worth while viewing experience.