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Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance

A rare example of a mockumentary geared for family viewing, Aussie laffer "Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance" runs the world of children's dance competitions through the ringer and comes up with amusing results.

With: Kerry Armstrong, Ben Miller, Shayni Notelovitz, Denise Roberts, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner, Clancy Ryan, Jane Hall, Toni Lamond, Barry Crocker.

A rare example of a mockumentary geared for family viewing, Aussie laffer “Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance” runs the world of children’s dance competitions through the ringer and comes up with amusing results. Balancing comic observation with genuine affection for its stage moms, precocious kids and eccentric dance instructors, energetically performed satire is suitable for ‘tweens and teens who don’t insist on loud, dumb comedy. Though lacking the sheer panache for bust-out biz, pic could land playdates in select offshore territories and score widely on tube and ancillary.

After its Berlin world preem in the renamed youth section, Generation, pic steps into the Aussie spotlight March 15.

Following the mockumentary gospel according to Christopher Guest, but played in a lower timbre, sophomore effort by helmer Darren Ashton (“Thunderstruck”) is set during the lead-up to the Sanosafe Troupe Spectacular.

Prestigious prize is most eagerly sought by perennial bridesmaid, Mr. Jonathan (British thesp Ben Miller). First seen marching his Jazzketeers through paces resembling a Theater of Cruelty workshop (“Imagine your brain is spewing out your eyes”), Mr. Jonathan’s mission is to change the world through choreography, on themes like child labor.

His opposite is Miss Elizabeth (Jane Hall), a tightly-wound traditionalist who admits to “telling parents their children are fat, lazy and untalented.”

Pushiest stage mom is Justine (Kerry Armstrong), who regards Mr. Jonathan as a visionary and whose media-savvy daughter, Tenille (Shayni Notelovitz), is star Jazzketeer. That is, until happy-go-lucky new girl Grace (Clancy Ryan) arrives.

Mixing verite-style performance footage with deadpan interviews, pic pokes fun at adults living far too vicariously through kids. Free of outright caricature, pic is well served by its cast — from Armstrong’s ambitious but quietly desperate mom to Miller’s self-deluded but lonely crusader.

Pick of the more broadly-drawn backstage oddballs are Tara Morice as Mr. Jonathan’s stony-faced seamstress Marianne, and Denise Roberts as his frumpy assistant Barbara. Notelovitz and Ryan are delightful leaders of a gaggle of ‘tweeners, clearly enjoying every moment as they work up a glitzy act based on the oppression of Afghan women.

Despite a few flat stretches and some labored direction, events flow enjoyably to the grand finale. Pristine, color-saturated HD-to-35mm lensing by Garry Phillips captures the exhilaration of putting on a show. Set to a soundtrack of kitschy ’70s and ’80s hits, rest of polished tech package ramps up to the max what’s on display at real dance competitions.

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Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance


Production: A Palace Films release of a Film Finance Corp. Australia presentation, in association with New South Wales Film & Television Office, of a Wild Eddie production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Andrena Finlay, Jodi Matterson. Executive producer, Al Clark. Co-executive producer, Simon Bosanquet. Directed by Darren Ashton. Screenplay, Carolyn Wilson, Robin Ince.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Garry Phillips; editors, Julie-Anne Deruvo, Philip Horn; music, Roger Mason; production designer, Karen Harborow; art director, Tony Campbell; costume designer, Ariane Weiss; sound (Dolby Digital), Mark Cornish; choreographer, John O'Connell; assistant director, Karan Monkhouse; casting, Nick Harmon (Australia), Lucy Bevan (U.K.). Reviewed at Hoyts Theatrette, Sydney, Dec. 19, 2006. (In Berlin Film Festival -- Generation Kplus.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Kerry Armstrong, Ben Miller, Shayni Notelovitz, Denise Roberts, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner, Clancy Ryan, Jane Hall, Toni Lamond, Barry Crocker.

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