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A COUPLE OF MISSTEPS (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

To follow is “Take the Lead,” in which Antonio Banderas plays Pierre Dulaine, a dance instructor who volunteers his time to teach public school rejects how to ballroom. Of course, them punkasses laugh, ridicule, and treat him a like a joke. The teacher stays consistently calm and collected; he realizes he isn’t only there to teach them to dance but also some manners. Equipped with life-as-a-dance philosophy, the man with the smooth moves waltzes into their kids’ lives and change their attitudes step by step.

This is a better picture than “Step Up.” The ensemble is certainly above average with the likes of Rob Brown (“Finding Forrester”), Yaya DaCosta (“America’s Next Top Model”), Dante Basco (“The Debut”), Elijah Kelley (“Hairspray”), and Jenna Dewan (“Step Up”). But the top dog here is Antonio Banderas, who does his best work since singing as Che Guevarra in “Evita.” The actor walks into his scenes with such upright posture and cool charisma, he makes “being a gentleman” something refreshing. Now, the guy is dancing too and he’s very convincing at that. The movie’s highlight is Banderas participating in a smoldering tango. As for the dances, they’re not as rowdy and entertaining as “Step Up,” but “Take the Lead” covers more range. Besides the sexy tango, it has hip-shaking Latin dances, an energetic hip-hop, and a fanciful waltz.

The problem with “Take the Lead” is that it never seems assertive enough to step up to its own title. Despite making a big deal about ballroom dancing, it’s still timorous of what its young and hip viewers might think. This is obvious in the movie’s ending. It includes hip-hop music where it doesn’t belong, just in case the teen audience still hates ballroom and feels really bored. In what should have been a rare event, it ends up looking like an ordinary prom night. I can’t quite recommend this. Just like “Step Up,” the plot can be sometimes predictable. Also, when I think about “Mad Hot Ballroom,” the charming documentary about grade school kids learning ballroom, “Take the Lead” seems mediocre by comparison. Okey, doke, that’s the end of this show. Let’s all hold hands, take a bow, and prepare for cheers/jeers.

Grade: C+

CAST
Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, Alfre Woodard, Dante Basco, Elijah Kelley, Jenna Dewan, and Yaya DaCosta
Screenplay by
Dianne Houston
Directed by
Liz Friedlander
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, language and some violence
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