Inspired by the same character-building "Dancing Classrooms" program featured in the popular documentary MAD HOT BALLROOM (2005), this formulaic crowd-pleaser leaves no cliche unturned as the power and grace of formal dancing transform a gaggle of rough-around-the-edges New York City high-school students into high-stepping swans. Bicycling home from work one night, Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) catches sullen teenager Rock (Rob Brown) working over principal Augustine James' (Alfre Woodard) car with a golf club. Rather than turn Rock in, he comes to James with a proposal: Convinced ballroom dancing can help disadvantaged youngsters find the focus and discipline they need to rise above their environment, he offers to give lessons after school. James, already at the end of her rope trying to keep her kids out of crack dens, jail and the morgue, sees a way around the detention dilemma: None of her teachers wants to supervise the school's most intractably truculent students, so she hands them off to Dulaine. Naturally, they initially respond with scorn: Dulaine's music is corny, his moves are old-fashioned and his ideas about how a man treats a lady are just lame. But he persists, appealing to their pride on the one hand and seducing them with a sizzling tango demonstration on the other. And then, with the unerring instincts of movie teachers, Dulaine matches up troubled students according to their potential to teach themselves and others valuable life lessons, and he encourages them to aspire to compete in a city-wide dance competition. Rock and Lahrette (Yaya DaCosta) hate each other because their brothers died on opposite sides of a gang war. Scrawny, redheaded white boy Kurd (Jonathan Malen), who lives for his smooth player image, is paired with sassy Big Girl (Shawand McKenzie). Romantic rivals Ramos (Dante Basco) and Danjou (Elijah Kelley) must compete in a gentlemanly fashion to dance with fiery Sasha (Jenna Dewan), who has a world-class chip on her shoulder. Slightly chubby, debutante-ball-bound Caitlin (Lauren Collins), a refuge from Dulaine's downtown classes who's convinced she's a natural-born klutz, finds an unexpected soul mate in supersize Monster (Brandon Andrews), who's pretty light on his feet for a big guy. Though screenwriter Dianne Houston spent time observing the real-life Dulaine, her screenplay is a showcase for triumph-of-the-underdog sports-movie cliches and coming-of-age-through-adversity moral lessons. But thanks to Banderas' understated sophistication and the efforts of the attractive young cast, it's still a charmer.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Inspired by the same character-building "Dancing Classrooms" program featured in the popular documentary MAD HOT BALLROOM (2005), this formulaic crowd-pleaser leaves no cliche unturned as the power and grace of formal dancing transform a gaggle of rough-ar… (more)