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Shall We Dance (2004)

Shall We Dance?

Step out of the ordinary.

Directed by:

Peter Chelsom

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 106 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

Country: United States

Dancing! Be it the waltz, the cha cha, or just a bit of good ol’ fashioned Macarena, who among us doesn’t love a jig? One man who certainly can’t be accused of reluctance when it comes to the throwing of shapes is Richard Gere. When last we saw him, he was rotating those old hips of his alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger in Chicago. Now, two years on, he’s at it again in ‘Shall We Dance’.

So what is it that causes the rhythm to get the better of him this time? Well, he’s bored white collar type John Clark, a man whose loving family (among them Susan Sarandon as wife Beverly) aren’t quite enough to compensate for the throes of mid-life crisis. Fair enough, you might think – after all, he is getting on a bit, and you’d probably be in “crisis” too if you’d developed that strange fawn shade of hair that blokes of a certain age always seem to get whenever they first start dabbling with the Grecian 2000. But, where most 50-somethings are content to make do with a Ferrari and a ponytail, he has to be all clever and get himself dancing lessons and a J-Lo. So, before you can say “heel toe heel toe”, he’s signing up for a ballroom class and allowing slightly-aloof teacher Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) to lead him into a not-very-seedy underworld of sequins, large hair and frighteningly white teeth.

Based on a 1996 Japanese film of the same name, ‘Shall We Dance’ is a well-meaning feel-gooder with its heart, if not always its feet, in the right place. Gere produces a likable performance, and the story genuinely kept me guessing as to whether or not he’d eventually stray from the safety of his apparently unblemished record of monogamy.

It’s also much more a comedy than a drama or a romance, and to that end features a screenplay with some nicely-written gags. Unfortunately though, the humour often fails thanks to Peter Chelsom’s awkward, amateurish direction. There’s far too much cutting from one camera angle to the next, and as a result it’s nigh-on impossible to get a feel for either the dance scenes or the characters. Whenever a supposedly emotional moment came along, I felt excluded from the proceedings and, in turn, completely untouched by a tale which – in the right hands – could have had the potential to make a much more lasting impression.

It's Got: Gere spending a little too much time skipping merrily down the street, much like common a drunkard - only considerably more dapper.

It Needs: To make better use of its cast. Sarandon does next to nothing and The Lo - with the exception of a couple of possibly over-long and definitely self-indulgent dance sequences – is practically occupying a bit-part.

Alternatives:

Shall We Dance (original version).

Summary

The cinematic equivalent of being left without a partner at the school dance. You get to see everyone else out there on the floor having fun, but never feel involved.

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