×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dance With Me

"Dance With Me" is "Flashdance" for the 1990s, for good and ill. On the positive side, this romance with a Latin beat has a bouncy charisma that's appealing and infectious. On the downside, the film is unquestionably simple-minded and archly melodramatic and fades quickly from the mind.

With:
Ruby Sinclair - Vanessa L. Williams Rafael Infante - Chayanne John Burnett - Kris Kristofferson Bea Johnson - Joan Plowright Patricia - Jane Krakowski Lovejoy - Beth Grant Stefano - William Marquez Michael - Harry Groener Julian Marshall - Rick Valenzuela

“Dance With Me” is “Flashdance” for the 1990s, for good and ill. On the positive side, this romance with a Latin beat has a bouncy charisma that’s appealing and infectious. On the downside, the film is unquestionably simple-minded and archly melodramatic and fades quickly from the mind. In popular terms, modest production’s assets prevail. Item shapes up as a solid mid-range performer with breakout prospects should higher-profile competition stumble, and subsequent ancillary play is a recipe for hot salsa.

Pic has a rather awkward narrative structure that frontloads the dramatic plot points, delaying its juicier elements. Rafael (Chayanne) is a young Cuban who’s just buried his mother and, coincidentally (or not), is about to go to Houston to meet his father (Kris Kristofferson) for the first time. Unbeknownst to him, his papa is unaware of the biological connection, and Rafael doesn’t quite know how to break the news.

John Burnett (Kristofferson) runs the low-rent Excelsior Dance Studio and used to instruct on cruise ships where Rafael’s mother was a chanteuse. He gives the young man a handyman job and a cot in deference to his mother’s memory.

As luck would have it, the Cuban arrives with the World Open Dance competition in Las Vegas just a month away. The denizens of the studio are so consumed with preparing their routines, his arrival goes virtually unnoticed. And, predictably, he accidentally reveals his natural talent for swaying hypnotically to any beat. The sparks fly on the floor and with Ruby (Vanessa L. Williams), the company’s best hope for a prize in the Vegas sweepstakes.

In Daryl Matthews’ screenplay, the familiar scenario’s deviations from the norm neither elevate nor capsize the essence of the yarn. It’s initially a surprise that Rafael and Ruby don’t become dance partners. Rather, he teams with Patricia (Jane Krakowski) when Burnett becomes indifferent to the competition, a twist that pays off.

The strength of the piece largely comes from the adroit direction of Randa Haines, a professed off-camera dance freak. She uses the serviceable script to move the picture from one dance sequence to the next, creating inventive ways of capturing the elegant and sexually charged movements.

The filmmakers’ passion is rightly in the dance, and not in the more conventional narrative. It’s predestined that the principals will somehow find a way to make their relationship work and that father and son will forge a bond despite the older man’s initial resistance. The real creative opportunities lie in visual and choreographic options, and Haines doesn’t miss a beat in either department.

What’s particularly compelling about the dance numbers is the manner in which they’ve been integrated into the plot. The exhilaration resonates when the lovers step out at a dance club, the eroticism is palpable in the studio, and the humor is apparent both in the competition and when, caught in a sprinkler system, Rafael does a Gene Kelly homage.

It’s all lovingly captured in the fluid sweep of Fred Murphy’s camera and the borderline-garish production design of Waldemar Kalinowski. And despite pic’s longish running time, there’s a crispness to the pace in Lisa Fruchtman’s editing.

Chayanne, a popular Latino singer, has a boyish charm that’s disarming even without a microphone in his hand. He’s nicely matched with Williams, an icier presence who cannot help but melt when he smiles. “Dance With Me” relies more on personality than on acting, and so Kristofferson and kindly, warm Joan Plowright recycle past personae that provide a deft shorthand for the drama among the picture’s more rhythmic and pleasing steps.

Dance With Me

Production: A Sony Pictures release of a Columbia Pictures and Mandalay Entertainment presentation of a Weissman/Egawa production. Produced by Lauren C. Weissman, Shinya Egawa, Randa Haines. Executive producer, Ted Zachary. Directed by Randa Haines. Screenplay, Daryl Matthews.

Crew: Camera (CFI color), Fred Murphy; editor, Lisa Fruchtman; music, Michael Convertino; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; art director, Barry Kingston; set decorator, Florence Fellman; costume designer, Joe I. Tompkins; sound (SDDS, Dolby Digital), David Ronne; choreographers, Liz Curtis, Matthews; assistant director, Aldric La'auli Porter; casting, Lora Kennedy. Reviewed at the Directors Guild, Los Angeles, June 1, 1998. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 126 MIN.

With: Ruby Sinclair - Vanessa L. Williams Rafael Infante - Chayanne John Burnett - Kris Kristofferson Bea Johnson - Joan Plowright Patricia - Jane Krakowski Lovejoy - Beth Grant Stefano - William Marquez Michael - Harry Groener Julian Marshall - Rick Valenzuela

More Film

  • Warner Bros., Bron Strike $100 Million

    Warner Bros., Bron Strike $100 Million Co-Financing Deal

    Warner Bros. and Bron Creative have closed a $100 million co-financing deal for five movies, including Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” and Rebel Wilson’s “Isn’t It Romantic.” The deal, announced on Tuesday, also covers the “Joker” origin film starring Joaquin Phoenix; crime drama “The Kitchen,” with Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish; action-comedy “Superintelligence,” toplined by McCarthy, Bobby [...]

  • VICE

    Adam McKay Explains the 'Vice' Musical Number He Left on the Cutting Room Floor

    Adam McKay’s “Vice” has clearly divided critics, with some calling it a bold and daring analysis of one of the most pivotal figures in American politics, and others mincing no words in labeling it, full stop, the worst film of the year. (Truly, in the year of a Dinesh D’Souza movie, people are grandstanding with [...]

  • Penny Marshall Dead

    Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75

    Penny Marshall, who starred alongside Cindy Williams in the hit ABC comedy “Laverne & Shirley” and then became a successful director, died on Monday night at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications from diabetes, Variety has confirmed. She was 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 [...]

  • 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Box

    Peter Jackson's 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Collects $2.3 Million on Monday

    Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” earned $2.3 million at 1,122 theaters in North America on Monday. Warner Bros. released the movie five weeks after it aired on Armistice Day on the BBC. The studio partnered with Fathom Events in the U.S. for a one-day event, marking the largest single [...]

  • Dua LipaVariety Hitmakers Brunch, Portraits, Los

    'Alita: Battle Angel' to Feature New Song by Dua Lipa

    Robert Rodriguez’s “Alita: Battle Angel” will feature a new song by Dua Lipa. “Swan Song,” co-written by Justin Tranter, Kennedi Lykken, Mattias Larsson, Robin Fredriksson and Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), in addition to Dua Lipa, will drop ahead of the film’s U.S. opening on Feb. 14. The Twentieth Century Fox action-adventure movie was produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau [...]

  • Les Arcs Festival Unveil Prizes For

    'System Crasher,' 'White on White' Win Work-in-Progress Awards at Les Arcs

    Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher” and Theo Court’s “White on White” won the top prizes at Les Arcs Film Festival’s Work-in-Progress session. Both titles were among the 18 films in post-production pitched during the 10th edition of the Work-in-Progress showcase which is spearheaded by Frederic Boyer, the artistic director of Les Arcs and Tribeca festivals. “System [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content