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Shall We Dance  (2004)


Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: February 1, 2005
Review posted: February 2, 2005


Reviewed by Rachel Sexton




Chicago lawyer John Clark (Richard Gere) goes through a happy but unsatisfying existence until he sees a beautiful woman (Jennifer Lopez) in the window of a dance
studio on his commute and one day impulsively signs up for lessons without telling his wife (Susan Sarandon). He and the people he meets there and all change throughout what happens next.



In 1996, a Japanese film about a man who takes dance lessons to get out of his workaholic life after seeing the beautiful instructor in the window, all the while keeping it from his family, became a critical and popular favorite. Shall We Dance? is the American remake of the same name, but despite some appealing performances and entertaining dancing, there isn't much more of note about the film.


The storyline and sequence of scenes, even, matches the Japanese original but there is something missing in the glossiness of this film. Director Peter Chelsom is competent, aiming for a light and breezy tone with better use of locations, better costuming, better music, and choreography that fits Western tastes more. He also uses lighting and space to achieve a couple of nice bits of composition in the cinematography, while the script is okay, especially in presenting the fact that John is ashamed of the dancing because he shouldn't want to be happier when he has a good job and a family he loves. One of the best lines from the original is even preserved. The end result, though, feels lacking.


I'm a dancer, so any film that can even decently give the audience some hip-shakin' is going to have an advantage and Chelsom got some great choreographers. Just check out the private tango between Gere and Lopez for some heat.


The rest of the dancing, too, is escapist fun that should have extended to the rest of the film. The cast handles it all surprisingly well, though. Gere is more adept on his feet than I think anyone would have guessed, while Lopez, as a former Fly Girl on In Living Color, has had plenty of dance training, so she impresses and I wish she had gotten a better role to show it off in. Stanley Tucci is Gere's co-worker and fellow dancer who startles with his sexy ability and Lisa Ann Walter is perfectly cast as abrasive but lovable Bobbie.



The transfer of the theatrical visuals looks pretty good in this anamorphic widescreen DVD presentation.



The good music is heard with clarity in the usual Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround presentation. A French language track is available, as are French and Spanish subtitles.



Commentary by Director Chelsom: The director provides a track and he does better than some people on solo tracks. There are no long silences and he usually gives interesting facts or discussion, like the fact that he originally turned down the film or that the exterior of the dance studio was actually in Montreal, I think he said. One listen could be worth the time.


"Beginners Ballroom": This is a pretty good featurette on ballroom dance in general, with interviews, mostly with the film choreographers, rehearsal footage for the film and historical footage about dance. Its interesting and goes fast and about six and a half minutes.


Behind the Scenes: This is the usual making-of featurette that actually has good information and some humor. Interviews and clips mix with behind the scenes and rehearsal footage again, all in about 22 minutes. Here's a chance to listen to the cast complain about the exercise of dancing.


The Music of Shall We Dance: This is about the soundtrack of pop songs for the film and is only about four minutes. It spends an inordinate amount of time on the song for which the video is included on the disc, so you can skip this.


Deleted Scenes: There a five here, with only bits of them seen in the finished film. Some are nice to see, like the alternate opening, which might have improved the film, and the scene about the importance of the first step in a dance. Chelsom commentary accompanies each, but he doesn't offer too much insight into their cutting.


Music Video: "Sway" by the Pussycat Dolls. The song is great, a classic updated, but the video is cheesy. Skip it.



The Japanese original is better than this Hollywood version of Shall We Dance?, though this film is not without its charms. The performances and dancing will be plenty to satisfy many for less than a couple hours. The DVD is improved by extras that mostly add interesting fun, though Miramax has a nagging habit of not putting the trailer for the film on the DVD with the other previews. Overall, not a great film but okay.




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