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Center Stage

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Center Stage

Starring: Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: May 2000
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Eion Bailey, Donan Murphy, Zoe Saldana, Amanda Schull, Debra Monk, Sascha Radetsky, Ethan Stiefel

Review by MrBrown
1½ stars out of 4

The young cast of unknowns in _Center_Stage_ can all dance, which is a very good thing indeed because virtually none of them can act. And that, of course, is a very, very bad thing when action shifts from the dance studios of the American Ballet Academy to the outside lives of a cross-section of students there. Of course, those followed make a diverse group: there's naive good girl Jody (Jennie Garth lookalike Amanda Schull), who rooms with the talented smartass Eva (ZoŽ Saldana) and Maureen (Susan May Pratt), the school's reigning diva; on the male side are All-American good guy Charlie (Sascha Redetsky), Russian good guy Sergei (Olympic figure skating champion Ilia Kulik), and bad boy Cooper (Ethan Stiefel), the American Ballet Company's hot young star.

These characters all intersect and collide in predictable ways as they deal with predictable personal issues. Jody is quietly pursued by Charlie, but she's drawn to Cooper. Maureen slowly crumbles under the pressure of her overbearing mother (Debra Monk) as a premed student (Eion Bailey) aggressively woos her. Eva butts heads with a strict teacher (Donna Murphy) and the pompous head (Peter Gallagher) of the Academy over her attitude. And so on.

It may not sound so bad as described, but that's because I'm recounting the film without any taste of screenwriter Carol Heikennen's dreary dialogue, Nicholas Hytner's overly earnest direction, or the truly putrid performances by these unpromising acting "talents." (Something is clearly amiss when the one character's development of bulimia is met with laughter from the audience.) The one exception is the spunky Saldana, who is the only one to make her character appear to be a real person, let alone one the audience comes to care about. Whenever she's not onscreen or no one is dancing (with the exception of the climactic ballet, which is supposed to be "hip" and "revolutionary" but is actually quite ridiculous), _Center_Stage_ is one trying watch.

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