PG-13 for thematic material, language and some violence.
April 7, 2006
Drama, Musical/Performing Arts
Antonio Banderas, Alfre Woodard, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Dante Basco, John Ortiz, Katya Virshilas, Katya Virshilas
New Line Cinema
Take the Lead Web site
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Take the Lead
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
Dust off your dancing shoes. It seems that ballroom dancing is back in style.
Many of us tuned in for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and saw first hand the amount of work required for novices to learn difficult dance moves. Now imagine students from a New York public high school mastering the tango, waltz, and salsa. That is the plot of the new movie, Take the Lead, starring Antonio Banderas.
Banderas stars as Pierre Dulaine, a ballroom dancer who took his dance lessons into New York public schools and used the art of ballroom dancing to teach students life lessons in discipline and respect. To their amazement, most students found they actually enjoyed learning the dances and even decided to show off their skills in a dancing competition.
If this plot sounds familiar, it is because Dulaine’s dance programs were also featured in the recent documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, a film that was conceived, ironically, several years after production had already started on Take the Lead. Although Dulaine’s programs were for elementary school children, Take the Lead producers made the decision that using high school students for the big screen would appeal to a wider audience.
The result is an uplifting film that leaves the audience feeling good, even though the plot is quite predictable. We’ve all seen movies with plots similar to this one – think Dangerous Minds and Music of the Heart – where a teacher goes into an inner-city school to offer underprivileged students hope for a better future. While you will know where the storyline is taking you, Take the Lead makes the trip quite fun.
Banderas performs the role of the charming dance instructor flawlessly and offers stunning moves on the dance floor. Alfre Woodard (Beauty Shop, ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”) stars as the sassy but caring high school principle, a role that fits her perfectly.
Some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie are the dance scenes. At first the hip-hop loving students turn up their noses at the “snooty” style of dancing that Dulaine wants to teach them. Their apprehension quickly fades when Dulaine shows them how sensuous dancing can be. To accomplish this, he performs a sexy tango with his star student Morgan, performed by Katya Virshilas a competitive ballroom dancer who also appeared in Shall We Dance. The performance leaves his inner-city students breathless and clamoring to learn the moves for themselves.
The students also decide to liven up Dulaine’s traditional music by fusing it with their own hip-hop beats. When they finally make it to competition, they incorporate some of their street dancing moves into their ballroom dances in an attempt to show up their snobby rich-kid competitors.
The film’s emotional impact is delivered by way of the students’ home lives. The two central characters, Larhette (YaYa DaCosta, “America’s Next Top Model”) and Rock (Rob Brown, Finding Forrest, Coach Carter) both struggle to rise above their unstable home environments.
Rock works after school to support his family while he endures life with an alcoholic father. Larhette struggles to balance her school work with caring for her younger siblings while her mom earns money through prostitution. When the two are forced to be dance partners, they must overcome the bad blood between them fueled by a gang war that involved their brothers.
While learning to ballroom dance doesn’t solve all of their problems, Larhette and Rock – along with the other students -- do learn valuable lessons about honor, respect, and self-confidence. They also learn that with hard work they can achieve their goals, even those goals that society typically deems as being appropriate for only those from a more privileged background.
Teens will enjoy the music and trendy dance moves that the film offers, while parents will find that the movie provides some valuable life lessons. It should be noted that the film does paint a realistic picture of life in the inner-city and the crime, violence, and drug use that goes with it. However the bad language and violence are not excessive, and the moments in the film that could have been portrayed very graphically – the prostitution of Lahrette’s mother in particular – are handled quite subtly.
Parents may also want to consider that some of the dances are quite sensual. While not as risqué as some of the dances performed in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, the dance routines may be too suggestive for younger viewers.
Overall, the film is enjoyable. The students’ accomplishments serve as a heartwarming reminder that we should all follow our dreams and be willing to help each other along the way.
It may even inspire you to pull out your own dancing shoes.
Comments? Email me
More articles by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com
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