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"Shall We Dance?" Movie Review

Stanley Tucci Makes It All Worthwhile


Jennifer Lopez Photo from Shall We Dance

Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in "Shall We Dance"

© Miramax Films
With the number of times we’ve been burned by a Jennifer Lopez movie piling up, it’s no wonder the audience members I eavesdropped on on the way into a special screening of “Shall We Dance?” were worried about watching another J-Lo show. No one wants to be reminded of “Gigli” – a word that strikes fear in the hearts of moviegoers. But come on, it’s been long enough since “Gigli” was unleashed on unsuspecting moviegoers and Lopez barely had a part in “Jersey Girl” so it’s time to cut her some slack, isn’t it?

The first thing you need to be aware of is that despite what you’ve seen in the commercials and on the movie poster, “Shall We Dance?” isn’t a Jennifer Lopez movie. That’s right, it’s a Richard Gere/Stanley Tucci/Susan Sarandon film and thankfully between those three and a good supporting cast, “Shall We Dance?” is more about romance and ballroom dancing than it is about Jenny on the Block.

Speaking of Stanley Tucci, he steals this film. Painted on tan, tight, sparkly pants, and a wig you have to see to believe (and even then your brain still might not be able to wrap itself around the image your eyes are feeding it), Stanley Tucci is the reason to see “Shall We Dance?.”

The premise of “Shall We Dance?” is simple. Lawyer John Clark (Richard Gere) leads a basically unexciting life. Sure, he has a loving wife, two cute teenagers, a beautiful home, and a thriving career. But there’s something missing. His travels home from work every day lead him past a dance studio where he often looks up and catches a beautiful woman either standing in the window or practicing her dance moves. That leads him to wonder if maybe ballroom dancing is what’s missing from his life. Would gliding around the dance floor snuggled against a lady who’s not his wife provide that intangible element he knows is missing? (Stick with the story, ballroom dancing’s not for everyone but this guy’s allowed his own fantasy world for the sake of the movie).

Even though John realizes that suddenly altering his schedule and staying out late a few more nights a week might cause his wife to wonder what’s going on, he can’t help himself. His feet need to move. He wants to feel carefree, inspired, and hopes to snap out of the doldrums he’s sunken into.

John signs up for classes and with his fellow students – Chic (Bobby Cannavale) and Vern (Omar Benson Miller) – he becomes completely addicted to the world of ballroom dancing. And it certainly doesn’t hurt the students’ morale that the attractive woman who gazes out the dance studio’s window is Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), one of the dance teachers.

I’ve already mentioned it’s Stanley Tucci who steals this movie so you may be wondering how he fits into the whole story. Tucci plays Link Peterson, a co-worker of John’s who has secretly been competing in dance competitions and shaking his tushy at clubs for decades. As John’s obsession with dancing grows, Link’s right there by his side pushing and prodding him into entering Chicago’s biggest dance competition.

Tucci turns in a brilliant comedic performance. He’s just that good, which leads me to wonder why he’s never given the attention he deserves. Richard Gere seems to have found a kind of ‘being comfortable in your own skin’ form of acting in his last couple of films. He’s genuinely engaging as a good guy who just feels like floating around like a ballroom-dancing butterfly.

The overall charm of “Shall We Dance?” owes a lot to impressive performances by Bobby Cannavale, Omar Benson Miller, and the irresistible Lisa Ann Walter (truly a Tasmanian Devil in human form and I mean that only in the most flattering way).

“Shall We Dance?” has its flaws. It gets sappy at times and sometimes strays from the fluffy, feel-good romantic comedy it really is at heart. But what it manages to do is provide a couple of hours of pure good-hearted escapism. We can’t have too many films that are simply meant to make you smile and laugh, and we certainly haven’t had many that managed to pull that off in 2004.


"Shall We Dance?" was directed by Peter Chelsom and is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and brief language.

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