Take the Lead Liz Friedlander

The "dance as discipline” movie is almost as hoary and predictable as the "army as character builder” and "inspirational sports” genres. This latest entry into the field proves no different, save for a few bits of window dressing. Based (I’m guessing, loosely) on the adventures of actual dance instructor Pierre Dulane, it pits Antonio Banderas against a group of inner-city high school miscreants in an attempt to introduce them to clean living and all of that good stuff. Alfre Woodard is on hand as the principal who’s seen too much and can’t hack it much longer, but mostly we’re initiated into the healing world of ballroom dancing, as Banderas/Dulane tries to save the kiddies with the tango and the cha-cha. Anyone who’s been within a hundred yards of a movie theatre knows exactly how this will turn out. Though there are some surprisingly adapt camera and editing tricks by director Liz Friedlander that suggest the director has a modicum of artistic intelligence, she’s simply not able to twist the material into something other than the same uplifting horse puckey we’ve been seeing all our lives. Further, it doesn’t even begin to suggest that the big dance competition is vaguely within the students’ grasp; they’re all left feet until the big night arrives. I suppose the whole thing passes painlessly enough but it leaves you wanting and wishing for a movie with meat on its bones. Extras include a decent all business feature commentary with director Liz Friedlander and editor Robert Ivison, seven deleted scenes, okay featurettes on the young cast, the director and music directors, and Pierre Dulane, three trailer remixes by DJ 2nd Nature, Eclectic Method and Addictive TV, and an interactive, multi-angle exploration of a tango number. (Alliance Atlantis)