Shall We Dance?

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Richard Gere as John Clark
Jennifer Lopez as Paulina
Susan Sarandon as Beverly Clark
Lisa Ann Walter as Bobbie
Stanley Tucci as Link
Anita Gillette as Miss Mitzi
Bobby Cannavale as Chic
Omar Benson Miller as Vern
Tamara Hope as Jenna Clark
Stark Sands as Evan Clark
Richard Jenkins as Devine
Nick Cannon as Scott
Sarah Lafleur as Carolyn
Onalee Ames as Diane
Diana Salvatore as Tina

Special Features:
Commentary by director Peter Chelsom

Deleted Scenes with optional director commentary

The Music of Shall We Dance? featurette

“Beginner’s Ballroom” featurette on ballroom dancing

Behind The Scenes featurette on the film

Pussycat Dolls “Sway” music video

Other Info:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 106 Minutes

Synopsis:
This movie is a remake of the 1996 Japanese film “Shall We Dansu?” The following is from the DVD cover:

“Golden Globe winner Richard Gere (Best Actor In A Musical Or Comedy, Chicago, 2002; Unfaithful) and Jennifer Lopez (Jersey Girl, Maid in Manhattan) step out in a delightfully sexy comedy with a sizzling all-star cast! John Clark (Gere) is a meek workaholic who feels trapped in a dull, mind-numbing existence. But one night, his whole life changes when the sight of a beautiful dance instructor (Lopez) inspires him to break out of his mold and sign up for ballroom dancing lessons! Now, he’ll have to step lightly — and do some fancy footwork — if he expects to keep his exciting new passion a secret from his family and friends. Also starring Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon (Best Actress, Dead Man Walking, 1995) and Stanley Tucci (The Terminal), Shall We Dance? is another acclaimed crowd-pleaser from the studio that brought you Chicago!”

Shall We Dance? is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and brief language.

The Movie:
Despite coming out less than eight years ago, the original Japanese movie is considered by many to be a classic, because it gave a great view of Japanese society as one man tries to overcome its many taboos by putting a bit more spice into his marriage. Comparing this modern romantic comedy to that film would be a lesson in futility, since the entire dynamic is changed as soon as the story is moved out of its native country into this remake’s Chicago setting. On the other hand, the ballroom dancing is less foreign to America as it may be in Japan. Somehow, director Peter Chelsholm has transcended past disasters like Town and Country to take the premise of the original and turn it into an entertaining mix of comedy and romance, although it works in a different way than the original.

The onscreen chemistry between Gere and Sarandon as the married couple is the main reason why the movie works as well as it does. They seem very comfortable on screen together, making them seem like a real couple, and it makes the payoff work that much better.

By comparison, the scenes between Gere and Lopez seem a bit awkward…until they finally dance together. And that is a magical movie moment, on a par with some of the many cinematic dances between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Lopez also looks amazing, maybe the best she’s looked on screen in a long time.

The best part of the movie is the comedy and it’s fairly non-stop once we meet the wacky characters of Miss Mitzi’s dance studio. The Station Agent’s Bobby Canavale plays the role of Chic with similar bravado, and Lisa Ann Walter is often amusing as the boisterous dancer Bobbie, who is constantly seeking attention from the men of the studio. But the real gut splitter is Stanley Tucci, who absolutely steals every scene as Gere’s boss when he puts on a wig and shows off his flamenco moves. When Tucci and Walter finally come together for a hilarious Latin dance in the movie’s climactic dance competition, you are laughing uncontrollably just from the thought of it. Other great comic bits come from Richard Jenkins of “Six Feet Under”, playing a rather amorous private detective that helps Gere and Sarandon find the middle ground in their marriage.

The movie has a really nice soundtrack with the standout being Peter Gabriel’s version of the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love”, which has a similar effect during the movie’s climactic scene as “In Your Eyes” did in Say Anything. There’s also a nifty version of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” by Mya, who has a small part in the film.

Despite the great chemistry between Gere and Sarandon, they’re not together nearly enough in the movie as some might like just because of the nature of the plot in that they have to be kept apart. It’s a shame since they work so well together.

Jennifer Lopez just didn’t work as well as the mysterious woman as her Japanese counterpart. Then again, she barely talks in the first half of the movie so those who don’t like her shouldn’t be to put off by her presence. Unfortunately, the chemistry between her and Gere just isn’t up to that of Gere with Sarandon except for when they’re dancing.

After awhile, the movie starts to get a bit ridiculous with a lot of cutesy and obvious gags that try too hard to get laughs. Some of them, like Gere tripping over some poles, just don’t work because comedy is clearly not Gere’s forte. The rest of it is the type of mainstream humor that one might find in something like Bringing Down the House or My Big Fat Greek Wedding, ongoing gags that are repeated over and over, which older folks might like but will make younger or more intelligent audiences groan. The dance competition, although fun to watch, is way too predictable a way to wrap up some of the subplots.

Anyone looking for a serious Oscar contender should look elsewhere, because Shall We Dance? makes absolutely no bones about being a mainstream romantic comedy. Still, it’s hard to deny that Shall We Dance? is a funny and consistently entertaining date movie that should help bring a lot of couples closer together.

The Extras:
Here are the bonus features that you’ll find on the DVD:

Commentary by director Peter Chelsom – This is a pretty interesting commentary by the director. He discusses the differences between this version and the Japanese version as well as the casting, how he initially wasn’t interested in making the film, and other details. It’s worth listening to if you’re a fan of the movie.

Deleted Scenes with optional director commentary – There are five deleted scenes. The first is an alternate opening. It starts with a dance number by anonymous dancers then transitions to John Clark interacting more with his office co-workers. He tells jokes in an elevator and generally looks happy despite what’s going on in his mind. Most of the rest of the deleted scenes show more dance numbers. You see Stanley Tucci and Lisa Ann Walter practicing as well as more of the competition routines by Bobby Cannavale and Omar Benson Miller. There’s also more of Jennifer Lopez dancing with the children. If the dance numbers were your favorite part of the movie, you’ll like these deleted scenes.

The Music of Shall We Dance? featurette – This is a 4 minute featurette focusing on the music from the film. They highlight the Pussycat Dolls and Mya.

“Beginner’s Ballroom” – In this featurette you’ll find all sorts of information on ballroom dancing. They discuss the history of it, the technique, the training of the actors, and more. It’s interesting to learn some of the details after having seen the film.

Behind The Scenes featurette on the film – This is your standard “making of” video featuring interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. They compare the Japanese version to this version, too.

Pussycat Dolls “Sway” music video – This is the sexy music video featuring the famous performers from Los Angeles. It’s very stylish and the music is pretty good, too. It perfectly fits the mood of the film.

The Bottom Line:
Shall We Dance? is a fun romantic comedy that is well worth checking out. The music, the dancing, and the colorful cast of characters make it quite entertaining.

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