If you have ever jumped up in the middle of a movie and yelled "Yes!" and then jumped a few more times spontaneously because you couldn't help yourself, Shall we Dance? is the movie for you. Richard Gere's portrayal of John Clark, a happily married workaholic who goes through a midlife crisis and therefore starts dancing lessons, is as funny as it is touching, and if you like chickish flicks, you will be jumping for joy by the end.
While it is true that the movie is full of little victories that will send you soaring from your seat, it also has a more serious undertone which analyzes the social connotations of men dancing in our society. In this way it does not qualify as a full-blown chick flick, and therefore all you skeptics out there can lower your turned-up noses slightly. This is no Fahrenheit 9/11, but the understated comments on our society as a whole are audible, and add a nice touch of credibility to the film.
Overall, the plot is fairly simple: a lawyer who is very much in love with his wife is still not quite happy with his life, and finds an interest in dance lessons after seeing a forlorn Paulina (played by Jennifer Lopez) staring out of the window of a squalid dance studio on his way home from work. On a whim, Gere gets off the Metro and runs into the studio, trying to meet the enchanting young woman, and ends up signing up for Beginning Ballroom. He hides his lessons from his wife (Susan Sarandon), who then hires a private detective because she thinks he is having an affair. As the movie progresses, the conflict between the aging couple and the possible sexual tension between John and Paulina keep the plot fresh.
Though the plot is consistently interesting and crisp throughout the film, the physical and verbal humor does not develop until the end of the film. There are certainly hilarious moments, many produced by the presence of Link (Stanley Tucci), one of John's co-workers who also loves dancing but keeps his passion private. However, the funny side of Gere's situations does not blossom early enough to keep comedy lovers satisfied, so don't just go to this movie for laughs.
If you are looking for less of a "ha" and more of an "ooh" and "ah," be sure to examine the costumes of the movie. Understandably, a movie about ballroom dancing is going to have some pretty dresses, but this crew went to extreme lengths to make the women look beautiful (or at least in character) and the men look debonair.
The appearances of various well-known celebrities were also pleasant surprises. Nick Cannon plays a small role as Scotty, the extremely educated assistant of the private detective hired to keep an eye on John. His many quotes of famous authors and even snappy lines original to the character were well-placed and appreciated; when another member of the dance studio, Bobbie (played by Lisa Ann Walter), asks whether he likes Paulina, he replies, "I like a woman built for comfort, not for speed." An appearance of Mya at the end of the movie is also surprising, but fits the plot well.
The music similarly suited the plot, with noticeable but not overpowering themes which added just enough to the story. For example, the repetition of the song "Shall we Dance" from The King and I establishes a musical theme which feeds back into the title of the movie, but is tastefully added so as not to become obsolete.
Although the little touches like thematic music and awesome costumes were fun, the movie does have a tendency to get a little too romantic, especially towards the end. If you have a problem swallowing copious amounts of romance along with your popcorn, watch a different movie. But if you can handle lovey-dovey scripting as long as it is believable, pack up your dancing shoes and consider tapping your feet to this movie for 95 minutes.
Overall, Gere has proved to us before that he can dance (Chicago) and that he can be romantic (Runaway Bride), but this movie shows the double threat of quick feet and sparkling eyes can be a hit as well. Hold onto your skirts as Shall we Dance? waltzes its way onto the big screen.
Shall We Dance? is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and brief language
Kate Selby. Kate Selby is a mean, green, story writing machine! She enjoys rock climbing, yoga, volleyball, writing poetry in her psychological "Zen Zone," and running hurdles. Another hobby which Kate enjoys is laughing at herself, an activity which she pursues quite often as she often does … More »