|Shall We Dance?|
|DVD Romantic Drama|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 01 February 2005|
“Shall We Dance?” is a surprisingly charming little film that is a remake of the 1996 film by Masayuki Suo. It focuses on an average man with a happy yet average family named John Clark (Richard Gere). Though he has a good job, a nice house in the suburbs, a loving wife Bev (Susan Sarandon) and two children, there is something missing from John’s life. Nothing is remarkably wrong, he just seems settled into his life in such a way that he has grown somewhat complacent in his routine and this fact makes him unhappy.
Every day John goes home on the El and one day he notices the exterior façade of Miss Mitzi’s Dance Studio. There, standing in the window and looking as forlorn as he feels, is Paulina (Jennifer Lopez). After a few false starts, John finally gets up the gumption to go and check out the dance studio. The first night he’s there, he meets Paulina, who signs him up for ballroom dancing classes, along with fellow newcomers Vern (Omar Miller) and Chic (Bobby Cannavale), both of whom seem to have their own reasons for learning how to dance.
As time goes by, John and the others become more adept at dancing and the change in John’s overall mien is noticed by his family so much that Bev begins to suspect that he is having an affair. She hires a private investigator (Richard Jenkins), who duly tails John and tells Bev that her husband is not having an affair but is dancing. John also finds out that his work associate Link (Stanley Tucci) is a dancer, but one who puts on a wig, fake teeth and plays the part of a cheesy Latin dancer. As the film progresses, we see how dancing impacts each one of the characters, culminating in a competition that John and Bobbie (Lisa Ann Walter) are entered into. Along the way, there are many dance sequences and while there is little absolute resolution, the film cannot help but provide a feel-good atmosphere.
“Shall We Dance?” was one of the sleeper hits of 2004, earning over $60 million at the domestic box office. This may be in part due to the name value of Gere, Sarandon and Lopez, but the film also generally received positive reviews. It is true that while there is nothing particularly remarkable about the film, it is a nice story that is told in an appealing way, emphasizing the intricacies and joys of dance as it goes. Director Peter Chelsom employs many master shots of the dancing, instead of relying on cuts. As a result, the degree to which all the performers mastered their dance steps is clearly visible and marks one of the more positive aspects of the film. Lopez is already known for her dancing skills and Gere very recently wowed audiences with his tap dancing in “Chicago,” and both, along with Sarandon, bring their acting chops. At times, things tend to drag, and the fact of the matter is there is not enough high dramatic tension to make this any more than a feel-good story that has the principal purpose of illustrating the joys of dancing.
The special features are pretty much a dud, though the feature commentary from director Peter Chelsom is often highly detailed and intelligent. The behind the scenes featurette is of the standard half-hour variety and provides little true insight into the machinations of the film. Perhaps the best and smallest gem in the arsenal is “Beginners’ Ballroom,” a short but informative look at ballroom dancing’s history, influence and difficulty. It features brief interviews with the three major choreographers, as well as the cast. The biggest disappointment on the disc – I’m not even sure why they included it – is “The Music of ‘Shall We Dance?’” This exceedingly short bit features a Miramax music executive discussing the fact that they had Gabriel Yared do the score and had remakes of a David Bowie song done, as well as talking about the Pussycat Dolls. This last group is talked about shamelessly and we see large chunks of the music video that is already also included on the DVD. Apparently someone at Miramax has a thing (read: contractual obligation) for the Pussycat Dolls. Technically, the DVD is unremarkable, featuring an adequate 5.1 digital mix, but no stereo, and a picture that has some digital transfer artifacts. Overall, the special features are really nothing too special and the DVD as a whole is good only for the film itself. Granted, for this type of film, at this budget range, there isn’t much expectation that it will have a large cache of bonus features.
“Shall We Dance?” will not blow you out of your seat, but for those who enjoy dancing (or who want to show someone the joys of dancing) and for those who simply want a nice movie without lots of sex and violence, it is a true winner.