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Shall We Dance? (2004)

Miramax Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/6/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/30/2008

While watching the 2004 remake Shall We Dance?, I found my eyes filling with tears. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with the movie. Instead, it was the result of the new Glade Plug-Ins air-freshener which my wife had just installed and set on high. No, Shall We Dance? didn't elicit any tears from me, nor did it encourage any other reactions, as this has to be one of the benign and stale movies that I've ever seen.

Richard Gere stars in Shall We Dance? as John Clark, a lawyer who works in Chicago and lives in the suburbs. Each day, he takes a train home from his monotonous job to his loving home where he lives with his wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), and daughter, Jenna (Tamara Hope). Yet, John feels that something is missing from his life. As he rides home, he notices a woman sitting in the window of "Miss Mitzi's Dance Studio". After several nights of seeing this seemingly sad and lonely woman, John decides to visit the dance studio. He soon meets the woman, Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) and Miss Mitzi (Anita Gillette), and then finds himself enrolling in a ballroom dancing class, along with two other men, Chic (Bobby Cannavale) and Vern (Omar Miller). Yet, John decides to keep the classes a secret from his family. At first, John questions his motives for taking up the class, but he then begins to enjoy them. Meanwhile, Beverly hires a private detective (Richard Jenkins) to find out why John keeps coming home late.

Let me start by saying that I haven't seen the original 1996 Japanese version of Shall We Dance?, but I now want to, just to see how superior it is to the remake. This new version is a robo-stinker and one of the most numbing films that I've ever seen. Shall We Dance? is one of those movies which stumped me from beginning to end, as I couldn't figure out who it was aimed at or why it even existed.

The story seems to simply be a catalyst to get us from one dance scene to the next -- yet, these dance scenes, save for the competition at the end, aren't very impressive. John's motives are never clearly explained. He does state that despite his seemingly happy existence, he's not happy. It's implied that he goes to the dance class because he finds Paulina attractive. (POSSIBLE SPOILER) Yet, if you go into this film expecting to see a romance between Gere and Lopez, prepare to be disappointed. (END SPOILER). Even after Beverly discovers John's secret, there isn't much drama. This bizarrely bad movie is further stymied by the stereotypical characters who inhabit the film.

The bad story gets little help from anyone involved in the movie, save for Stanley Tucci, who steals the show as a frustrated dancer. Gere plays the same suave character that he always plays, and he continues his transformation into John Travolta as he gets to dance in another film. I've never been impressed by Jennifer Lopez's "acting" skills, and that hasn't changed with Shall We Dance?. Her emoting is never believable and she sounds as if she's simply reading each line. Sarandon is wasted, playing yet another dull wife role, and she's relegated to simply displaying her ample cleavage. Shall We Dance? was directed by Peter Chelsom, who also brought us Serendipity and Town & Country. One has to wonder why he was even allowed near a camera again. Shall We Dance? is a pointless movie which proves that Hollywood is truly willing to remake any foreign film.

Shall We Dance? tangos onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image looks very nice, as the picture is quite sharp and clear. Grain is kept to a minimum, but I did notice some fleeting white specks on the image at times. Other than that, the image shows a nice amount of detail and has very good depth in some shots. Probably the most impressive aspect of this transfer are the colors, as the colorful lights and posters in the dance studio look fantastic. I didn't note any artifacting or video noise here. The disc carries a Linear PCM 5.1 Lossless audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 4.6 Mbps. This is an interesting track, as the dialogue sounds fine, but it, and most of the other sounds, are confined to the center and front channels. In the first half of the film, we get some scant stereo and surround effects, but it's the music which is most prominently featured in surround sound. It's not until the finale (with the dance competition) that the crowd noise produces some nice surround sound which shows an impressive amount of separation between the left and right speakers.

The Shall We Dance? Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Peter Chelsom. Despite Chelsom's questionable storytelling abilities, his commentary is actually quite good as he speaks at length throughout the film and keeps most of his comments scene specific. He talks about his actors, the locations, and the difficulty of shooting the dances. In "Beginners' Ballroom" (6 minutes) dance experts and cast members discuss the history and techniques of ballroom dancing. "Behind the Scenes of Shall We Dance?" (23 minutes) is the standard "making of" fare, with comments from the cast & crew, behind-the-scenes footage, and rehearsal footage. The 4-minute "The Music of Shall We Dance?" shows Maya butchering Bowie's "Let's Dance" and gives us lots of footage of the scantily-clad Pussycat Dolls. We see more of said Dolls in the music video for their song "Sway". There extras are rounded out by 5 DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with optional commentary from director Chelsom.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long