Shall We Dance
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Date: February 1, 2005
Review posted: February 2, 2005
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
"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. It’s
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.
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.
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.
"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.
VERDICT: RENT IT
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