Take the Lead (review)

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Call it Dance and Deliver. There’s nothing in this amiable slice of education porn — oh man, check out the hot awesomeness of a teacher who cares! — that we haven’t seen a hundred times before, except for one: ohmigod, Antonio Ban-DAIIIIR-es! If my teachers looked like him, I would have gone to class, too. Oh, wait: I did. I was one of the smart kids who, in the calculus of these kinds of flicks, don’t need a Michelle Pfeiffer or an Antonio Banderas (or even an Edward James Olmos or a Meryl Streep) to do well: we can toddle along just fine with principals like Alfre Woodard (Something New) and the other teachers at this rundown inner-city New York high school, who work under a kind of benign neglect when it comes to the honors students. Noooo: it’s the “school rejects,” the worst of the worst, who get to hang out with an amazingly sexy ballroom dance instructor and competitor like Banderas’s (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) Pierre Dulaine, who get to learn some self-respect, teach Mr. Dulaine a thing or two about shaking one’s groove, and maybe, oh, get a chance to win the all-city ballroom dance contest! It’s so cool being all poor and inner-city and funky and all. No, seriously, Dianne Houston’s tediously familiar script doesn’t sugarcoat the unpleasantness of living without hope, but it drastically underestimates what it takes to restore hope, too. Still, better to light a candle, right? If only we hadn’t seen this particular candle lit this particular way so many times before.

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