"Shall We Dance?" is not exactly a Halloween movie but it's certainly
frightening to watch Jennifer Lopez, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon sidestep
through ill-advised remake of an elegant, utterly delightful 1996 Japanese film
with the same title that glorified ballroom dancing.
Set in Chicago, the romantic comedy revolves around John Clark (Gere), a
mild-mannered, middle-aged estate lawyer who takes an elevated train to work.
Coming home one day, out of the train window, he spots sad-eyed Paulina
(Lopez), an exotic, alluring instructor at Miss Mitzi's Dancing School.
Intrigued, he eventually gets off at Miss Mitzi's stop and enrolls for lessons.
Meanwhile, back in suburbia, his concerned, loving wife (Susan Sarandon) hires
a detective (Richard Jenkins) to discover why John isn't coming home after work
on Wednesday nights.
Written by Audrey Wells and directed by Peter Chelsom, it's riddled with
clichés, both verbal and cinematic. Like when J. Lo defines dancing as "a
vertical expression of a horizontal wish."
While the main characters flounder, the supporting actors flourish - like
a blowzy, brassy waitress (Lisa Ann Walter) who grabs John as a dance-contest
partner, an obnoxious co-worker (Stanley Tucci) with a secret passion for
sequins, a secretly gay instructor (Bobby Cannavale) and a shy African-American
(Omar Benson Miller) who loses weight and finds a fiancee. Yet, amidst the
idiocy, there's one brief but wonderful scene where John finally masters the
sublimated desire of the torrid tango, reminding you of Gere's tap-dancing
finesse in "Chicago." Obviously, Gere now loves to dance. On the Granger Movie
Gauge of 1 to 10, "Shall We Dance?" is a clunky, lead-footed 4. Sit this one
out and chalk it up to a misstep for everyone.
Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger