Shall We Dance?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 November, 2004, 12:00am

Starring: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci

Director: Peter Chelsom

Category: IIA

Japanese director Masayuki Suo had a hit on his hands back in 1995. His tale of a bored office worker whose life is turned around thanks to his passion for dance touched a nerve in his homeland - starting a ballroom dancing trend that continues to this day - and captured hearts in the US, taking in some US$10 million from a limited release.

A great deal more touching than, say, Strictly Ballroom (1992), which made similar noise, Shall We Dance? was soon snapped up for a remake. And the world has waited to see what would happen once the film was given the Hollywood treatment.

Gone is a great deal of the poignancy that marked the Japanese version. But thankfully in its place is the kind of showbiz panache Hollywood does best. Put it down to Richard Gere, as John Clark, for this is very much his movie.

As in Chicago (2002), he cuts a mean figure on the dance floor. Whether or not his brand of bland characterisation is your cup of tea is another matter, but the sparks do fly when he gets those shoes on. His version of the salaryman is tired of life and looking for excitement rather than a means of raising himself above the 'system'. And when he catches a glimpse of Jennifer Lopez standing in her dance studio he decides to give it a whirl. And who could blame him? But romance is put out of the picture from the start, and Gere's man finds that his passion for dance alone can breathe life into his existence. He forgets any idea of the horizontal variety and his life becomes a whole lot better for it. The dance sequences are superb - a few more of Gere and J.Lo (below) might even have pushed things over the top.

On the home front, though, our man's wife (Susan Sarandon) while impressed with this new lust for life, begins to get suspicious. Considering his previously more sedate existence, it's not surprising. That Clark gets away with it all pushes credibility, but there you go.

The wonderful Stanley Tucci comes close to making the film his own with a turn as a fabulously over-the-top dancer in disguise. And that's just one of the film's treats.

Shall We Dance? is never more than an attempt to suspend reality and simply entertain. So let yourself go with the flow.

Shall We Dance? opens today.