I’d rather take the bus
LOOSELY INSPIRED by a true story, Take the Lead focuses on Pierre Dulaine (Banderas), a widowed dance instructor who makes an offer to the principal (Woodard) of a New York inner-city school to teach his elegant craft to the pupils in detention.
Naturally, the kids object. They say Dulaine’s musical taste is terrible and think his dances are outdated. However, when he brings a sassy female dancer, wearing very little, to the class and proceeds to gyrate with her to the tango, he gains their attention and respect. He then convinces them that sequins, fake tan and a permanent grin, is the answer to all their ghetto-based troubles.
They start to add their own hip-hop moves and create their own, brand new kind of dance. If only there were some sort of big competition where they could publicly smash all ballroom conventions and freely express their burgeoning sexuality with some risqué manoeuvres ….
Unfortunately, the climactic ballroom dance competition is clumsily presented, with Dulaine’s underdogs there, in borrowed tuxes and gowns, competing against glamorous types.
Hollywood makes full use of Banderas’s hip-wiggling Latin charm by casting him as Dulaine, and his commitment to the part is so complete you want the film to be better than it is. But it isn’t. The movie follows all of the expected clichés, but even the earnest, well-intentioned sub-plots can’t redeem it.
Even though the film is based on a true story, director Friedlander skates over the complexities of real life, taking hasty snapshots of each character and failing to capture an honest moment. A scattering of dance sequences, that fuse hip-hop and classical beats, provide a few shots of energy, but, otherwise, the film plods through the motions.
RATING: * * *