Take the Lead

Film
WILL WE BE GRADED ON THIS? Banderas heats up the curriculum.
WILL WE BE GRADED ON THIS? Banderas heats up the curriculum.

Time Out says

When Ira Gershwin wrote the lyric to “I Got Rhythm,” he wasn’t exactly making a hip-hop-style boast. Yet here’s that American standard, as interpreted by Lena Horne, colliding with a beat box and some rapping by Q-Tip under the opening credits of Take the Lead. This kind of musical fusion—or is it culture clash?—is at the heart of director Liz Friedlander’s debut film, about a group of ghetto teens who embrace classical ballroom dancing while bringing some of their own street style to the dance floor.

Antonio Banderas stars as Pierre Dulaine, a genteel ballroom instructor who volunteers to teach a group of hardened “rejects” at an inner-city high school. The tough-love principal (Woodard) is skeptical, as are the students themselves (“What’s that noise?” remarks one upon hearing a lilting Gershwin tune). But the prospect of winning a citywide competition is enticement enough, and they soon find themselves relating to Dulaine, and to one another, in wholly new ways.

Take the Lead is itself a hybrid of the ballroom picture (an unlikely cottage industry these days) and the schoolteacher-in-the-ghetto film. Awash in the clichs of both genres, the movie seems to know it and not really care; it wins you over with the charm of its young cast—including newcomer DaCosta and Finding Forrester’s Rob Brown—and its ridiculously exuberant dance sequences.(Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Tom Beer

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