Shall We Dance? (2004) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexuality and language
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Lisa Ann Walter, Stanley Tucci, Anita Gillette, Bobby Cannavale, Omar Miller, Mya Harrison, Ja Rule (cameo)
Director: Peter Chelsom
Screenplay: Audrey Wells (from Masayuki Suo's original screenplay)
Review published September 23, 2005
A superfluous remake, probably better received by viewers that haven't seen the original 1996 version from Japan, Shall We Dance? replicates the basic story and key scenes, but the new Hollywood elements make the overall story worse -- much, much worse. I won't bore you with details as to why the original film is far superior other than to say that the entire premise works better in the Japanese culture where social graces are far more repressed, especially when it comes to sexy dancing. Gere's "dancing in the closet" makes little sense here, while the romantic tension between him and dance instructor J.Lo is definitely handled with far less subtlety. In fact, subtle isn't a word anyone would use with the 2004 update, as everything is broad and showy, from the music to the moves to the humor to the acting. A better title would have been Dance Movie for Dummies.
Gere (Chicago, Dr. T and the Women) stars as family man and successful businessman John Clark, who seemingly has it all, and yet, he is yearning for something new and different in his pat and predictable life. Danger comes in the form of an interest in the sexy Hispanic dance instructor, Paulina (Lopez, Gigli), who he finds so alluring, he signs up to take beginning instruction in dance every Wednesday evening just to get close to her. Paulina catches on to John's interest and ices things pretty quick, but John is already hooked on his newfound avenue of expression in dance, and he continues his lessons. Meanwhile, John's wife (Sarandon, Moonlight Mile) has her suspicions raised that he may be having an affair, as he has been coming home late with perfume on his clothing, going so far as to hire a private investigator to look into the goings-on of her otherwise adoring husband.
Once again, I must reiterate, if you've already seen the 1996 movie, you've already experienced every delight that this story has to offer on a much bigger scale. Watching a carbon copy done in such a watered-down fashion only serves to frustrate, so my advice is to not even bother, unless you are an avowed Gere or J.Lo fanatic. If you have never seen it, perhaps this version will hold your attention, but still, you really are limiting yourself by choosing this over the elegant original. Unless you refuse to watch anything with subtitles, watch the older version instead and thank me for it.
Contrived, crass, and full of scenes of moronic motivation, Shall We Dance? only has the love of dance going for it. It's not really enough to carry a movie, and the acting, especially by Lopez, is awkward at best. Silly characters, a wimpy storyline, and some not-that-impressive dance numbers do little to bolster this forgettable movie. To the original Japanese film, say "hai!", and bid this sorry retread "sayonara".
©2005 Vince Leo