Take the Lead

Opens at Metro and others, Fri., April 7. Rated PG-13. 108 minutes.

Antonio Banderas plays Pierre Dulaine, a real-life dance instructor who took on a group of detention dwellers in a New York City high school and taught them to dance. If you've seen enough movies, you can probably predict the entire plot based on that description alone, and it does play out exactly as you'd expect.

The filmmakers combine ingredients from Mad Hot Ballroom, Fame, Save the Last Dance, Dirty Dancing, Romeo and Juliet, Stand and Deliver, School of Rock, and Finding Forrester, and the latter film even supplies the same actor (Rob Brown) in the same role (basketball-playing youth whose better self shines through with some cultural mentoring). It's a numbing experience in cultural recycling, presumably intended for younger moviegoers who haven't seen all the aforementioned titles, to be escorted by their Dancing With the Stars–primed mothers.

The young cast behind Banderas has energy but is stuck with moldy stereotypes. Marcus T. Paulk, as smart-mouthed student Eddie, has some fresh charm—he could go on to better things. Alfre Woodard plays the sassy, no-BS principal, and she gets some good lines. Beyond those two, there's nothing exciting here, no mining for new talent. Banderas, impressively, seems to know what he's doing on the floor—the man can move, although a potential love story for his heartsick widower character merely stumbles into the clattering chorus of subplots.

By the time the big final dance competition arrives, you're drowning in déjà vu, but you saw it all coming even during the preshow Coke commercials. Which, come to think of it, were more imaginative than the movie itself.

 
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