Publicity Stills of "Take the Lead"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Drama/Music
Director: Liz Friedlander
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, Alfre Woodard, Dante Basco, Lyriq Bent
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.taketheleadmovie.com

Opening Day: 13 April 2006


Antonio Banderas stars in Take the Lead, a drama inspired by the true story of Pierre Dulaine, an inspirational Manhattan dance teacher and competitor who volunteers his time to teach ballroom dancing to a diverse group of New York inner-city high school students serving detention. The students are initially skeptical of Dulaine, especially when they learn what he’s there to teach them, but his unwavering commitment and dedication slowly inspire them to embrace his program. In fact, they even take it one step further and combine Dulaine’s classical dance with their unique hip-hop style and music to create a high-energy, unique fusion. As Dulaine becomes a mentor for his students, many of whom haven’t had much to strive towards in their lives, he inspires them to hone their craft for a prestigious city ballroom competition, and in return they share with each other valuable lessons about pride, respect and honor.

Movie Review:

Teacher-student relationships make common storytelling. Classic heavyweights like Dead Poets Society have given way to movies ranging from Dangerous Minds to more recent fare like Coach Carter. You have the inspirational mentor, thrown together with a bunch of kids with low esteem in life, a group whom everyone else has practically written them off, and have the teacher show them direction and belief, using something that the kids all have common interest in, or teaching them a new set of values.

Take the Lead follows the same tried and tested formula. Antonio Banderas plays Pierre Dulaine, the dance instructor featured in the movie. Singapore recently screened another documentary movie called Mad Hot Ballroom, which explores the community program which Dulaine had begun in the New York public school system. In Take The Lead, this movie is similarly inspired by the same extraordinary man, except that it takes a semi-fictional look closer into the man's life, and perhaps what started it all.

Before you dismiss this movie as yet another teacher versus students flick with a dance theme, let me assure you that this movie is still pretty enjoyable and entertaining. Tapping into the magical sensual appeal of ballroom dancing, and contrasting it with the free-form, freestyling ways of the modern hip-hop inspired dance moves, we're set up for a clash of cultures right from the beginning, with the prim and properness of Ballroom, in direct contrast to the free expression that the modern dance brings about, and of the students' street culture.

There are many characters in the movie, since we have a detention class size, and having each character contributing to a little subplot. However, we never get to see much depth within each character, save for a very one-dimensional look at them, and how they would have changed towards the end. But it worked wonders on the pacing of the movie, never bogging you down in the more silent moments of the story. As the movie progresses according to formula, you'd soon find yourself rooting for these underdogs as they try earnestly to prove themselves on a bigger stage, a stage which didn't seem meant for them.

You can expect the standard themes that this movie will work upon, themes like respect, love, discipline, and how hard work's required to achieve that dream and goal in life. The turning point in the movie has got to be where the students learn about the five thousand dollars payout at a ballroom competition which Dulaine had the intention of enrolling them in, thus taking their lessons a bit more seriously. The themes don't come across as preachy, as they were worked into the narrative and dance seemlessly. You'd agree about how it's all about cooperation and trust amongst teammates, and nod in agreement as you realize that ballroom dancing has so much to offer in learning about life-skills.

And what about the dance moves? As you've already seen in the trailer, Antonio Banderas only gets to sizzle during that one dance, which I thought was pretty hot, and had the potential of being immortalized like Al Pacino-Gabrielle Anwar's in Scent of a Woman, and Uma Thurman-John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Watching and anticipating the amalgamation of the dance moves, and of the soundtrack, was well worth it, as it brought out the underlying meaning of compromise, and combining the best of lessons learnt from two different styles to come up with something unique and smart. Watch out for that Tango!

However, don't expect to learn more about the different ballroom dances from this movie, unlike Mad Hot Ballroom which provided you a good picture of the form and steps. Here, because at the end of the day the moves are going to be pretty mixed, the attraction will be that new form the students and Dulaine come up with. And that indeed, is a joy to watch, having to witness the energy of a youthful cast heating up the dance floor!

P.S. If you'd like to know more about the man Pierre Dulaine, perhaps a good place to start will be the following website


Movie Rating:

(Formulaic but a whole lot of rebellious fun, Take The Lead will have you tapping or even
dancing away once the credit rolls!)

Review by Stefan Shih

DISCLAIMER: Images, Textual, Copyrights and trademarks for the film and related entertainment properties mentioned
herein are held by their respective owners and are solely for the promotional purposes of said properties.
All other logo and design Copyright©2004-2006, movieXclusive.com™
All Rights Reserved.