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It always seems like whenever a movie from another country gets critical acclaim and gains a cult following it will soon be “remade” in America for mainstream American audiences. You can almost always guarantee that none of the fans of the original film will like this “remake”. It’s also pretty certain that critics won’t rate the American “remake” as high as the original. That’s just how it goes when you try to put an “American spin” to a film that was popular elsewhere. A lesser-known example of this is Shall We Dance.
In Shall We Dance, John Clark (Richard Gere) is a man with a wonderful job, a charming wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), and a loving family, who nevertheless feels that something is missing as he makes his way every day through the city. Each evening on his commute home, John sees a beautiful woman, Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), staring with a lost expression through the window of a dance studio. Haunted by her gaze, John impulsively jumps off the train one night, and signs up for dance lessons, hoping to meet her. At first, it seems like a mistake. His teacher turns out to be not Paulina, but the older Miss Mitzi, and John proves just as clumsy as his equally clueless classmates on the dance-floor. Even worse, when he does meet Paulina, she icily tells John she hopes he has come to the studio to seriously study dance and not to look for a date. But, as his lessons continue, John falls in love with dancing. Keeping his new obsession from his family and co-workers, John feverishly trains for Chicago’s biggest dance competition. His friendship with Paulina blossoms, as his enthusiasm rekindles her own lost passion for dance. But the more time John spends away from home, the more his wife becomes suspicious. With his secret about to be revealed, John will have to do some fancy footwork to keep his dream going and realize what it is he really yearns for.
Jennifer Lopez started her career as a backup dancer, and eventually made her way to the front of the stage and became a singer. But she is relatively new to acting. Fortunately for her, dancing is in her blood and the entire movie doesn’t rest on her shoulders. She is able to execute her role near flawlessly thanks to her background and limited screen time. Richard Gere has proven to be a strong lead in the past and he is again here, but unfortunately that also means he wasn’t the perfect choice for this particular role. The character he is playing is supposed to be shy at first and slowly gains confidence as he gets better at dancing. Gere can’t help but exude confidence from the very beginning, though. Gere and Lopez aren’t allowed to have much chemistry with each other, since this is essentially Gere’s movie but they do a respectable job when they do appear on screen together. Susan Saradon also has a strong supporting role as Gere’s wife, but her character seems to get more screen time than was necessary. She and Gere also have almost zero screen time together.
The American version of this film follows the story of the Japanese version extremely close, which is not a good thing in this case. Much of the story get lost in translation. In Japan, dancing is largely considered scandolous and taboo. In America, it’s perfectly natural to see men ballroom dance. So the main storyline of Gere having to keep his dancing a secret from his wife doesn’t really make sense unless he was having an affair with his dance teacher. But that is not the case either, because as mentioned before Gere and Lopez don’t build up enough time together for that occur. That is ironically refreshing, but really doesn’t help this movie in the end.
Shall We Dance is just another American version of a popular film from another country that doesn’t measure up to the original. Overall the cast helps raise this film, but make no mistake about it this is all about Richard Gere. That helps and hurts this film at the same time, which ultimately leads it nowhere. There are some entertaining moments in this version of Shall We Dance, but it’s really just average at best.
The video is presented in 1080p/VC-1 at the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. The transfer is good for the most part. The colors are bright, but it is not one of the best Blu-ray DVDs out there. Still there are no major problems.
The audio included is available in either English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 Surround sound, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround sound, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround sound, or French 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English SDH, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear.
Audio Commentary –
Director Chelsom spends most of his commentary talking about the acting skills of the cast members. There’s not nearly the amount of anecdotes and information that it takes to make one of these entertaining enough to watch the film all over again.
“Making Of Shall We Dance” Featurette –
A behind-the-scenes making-of featurette comes in around 20 minutes and offers the standard blend of clips and cast interviews, with, again, no earthshaking insights.
“Beginner’s Ballroom” Featurette –
This runs minutes and it’s a brief feature on the cast in training, intercut with clips from old Hollywood movies that featured ballroom dancing.
Deleted Scenes –
There are 5 deleted scenes that run 4 minutes each, and are playable with or without commentary. All of them were cut for good reasons and don’t add much to the film at all.
“Sway” Music Video –
This is just a music video for one of the songs in the film, “Sway” by The Pussycat Dolls.
If you like Richard Gere, this is the movie for you. Buy it if you are a hardcore fan of his. If you enjoy romantic comedies, give this one a rental. But if you don’t fall in either of these categories, avoid at all costs.
Miramax Films presents Shall We Dance. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Written by Masayuki Sup and Audrey Wells. Starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated: PG-13. Released on DVD: May 6, 2008.
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