Cinema

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

DID HE SAY HOLD YOUR HAND VERTICALLY OR HORIZONTALLY? Lahrette (Yaya DaCosta, right) and her partner Rock (Rob Brown sieze an opportunity in the school s corridor to practice some of the dance steps Pierre Dulain (Antonio Bandera, not shown) has taught them.

Take the Lead: Ballroom Dancing Helps Reduce Juvenile Delinquency

In 2005, Mad Hot Ballroom recounted the heartwarming story of an ethnically diverse set of New York public school students from humble backgrounds who learn some very valuable life lessons while being taught how to tango, waltz and rumba in preparation for an annual citywide competition. The documentary was inspired by the work of Pierre Dulaine, the instructor who came up with the novel idea of introducing the kids to ballroom dancing.

Emphasizing the development of confidence, self-esteem, manners and other critical survival skills which would serve them well in adulthood, Dulaine was so effective in bringing the studio sensibility to the classroom that his community outreach program currently serves over 7,500 students in 60 schools. Take the Lead revisits the themes addressed by Mad Hot Ballroom, but this movie shifts the focus away from the children to Pierre Dulaine, (played by Antonio Banderas).

The cast features many talented unknowns plus Alfre Woodard, Ray Liotta, and Rob Brown. The movie marks the directing debut of Liz Friedlander, a veteran TV commercial and music video director who has worked with U2 and Blink 182.

Dianne Houston wrote the imaginative script, which earns high marks for interweaving the main story and a variety of vignettes into a collection of tales of personal triumph. In addition, the picture treats the audience to plenty of delectable dance sequences which frequently contrast classical styles with present-day hip-hop.

However, Take the Lead is slightly tarnished by its simplistic suggestion that the woes of the ghetto could be easily eliminated if everybody just took their cues from Pierre Dulaine. The film's only other flaw is an overabundance of tight shots which deliberately avoid the skyline in order to make Toronto pass for New York.

The movie starts the night Pierre is bicycling through the neighborhood in a tuxedo. He comes upon Rock (Rob Brown) who is trashing his high school principal's (Alfre Woodard) car with a golf club because she suspended him.

Pierre intervenes, but rather than report the incident to the cops, he instead decides to track down the owner. When he pays a visit to the school, we get a good idea of the effect he has on women, because females entering the office swoon just because he holds the door for them.

Pierre sizes up the situation and impulsively offers to teach ballroom dancing at the school for free. So he begins the compassionate process of whipping some of the school's worst behaved students into form for the big competition in the finale.

Excellent (3.5 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, and mature themes. Running time: 108 minutes. Studio: New Line Cinema.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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