Directed by: Liz Friedlander
Written by:Dianne Houston
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Alfre Woodard, Dante Basco, John Oritz
Released: May 25, 2006
Grade: B+

I know a lot of people who are going to be interested in seeing this film.  Now that Dancing With The Stars has finished for another season, lovers of dance can get their “fix” with Antonio Banderas and Take The Lead.

At last year’s Brisbane International Film Festival, the audience vote for best documentary went to a film called Mad Hot Ballroom.  It showed the story of three schools in New York City who had implemented a ballroom dancing program for students in the 5th grade.  They trained and ultimately competed against 60 other schools in a year-end competition.  It was exciting to watch.  The kids stole the show with their innocence.

Take The Lead is the fictional equivalent.  I shouldn’t call it a work of fiction because it’s based on the real life story of Pierre Dulain, a man who started a dance program for underprivileged kids.  When you see the film however, you’ll realise it the story has received a Hollywood facelift.  The dialogue is stiff, the acting is average and there are scenes which will leave you screaming “now I know that didn’t really happen.”

I’m opening myself up for criticism since I don’t know anything about the real Pierre Dulain.  Perhaps this is all true!  The film opens with Pierre (Banderas) walking into a sub-standard public school in New York City.  He’d like to help out by offering ballroom dancing lessons to some of the teenage students.  He says they’ll teach students about respect but deep down, I think he does it because he simply loves dancing wants to impart this love onto others.

Principal James (Woodard) doesn’t see any merit in Pierre’s idea so puts him in charge of after-school detention.  She bets him $5 that he won’t come back after the first day.  It takes time but Pierre finally starts winning over these students (who for some reason are always in detention).  He teaches them the dances such as the waltz and the salsa by mixing his classic music with their modern rap.

It’s very predictable but the spirit of Take The Lead did sink in during the final half hour.  It finishes with a well choreographed dance contest that looks great on screen.  It’s the feature film debut of director Liz Friedlander but she’s picked the right project given her experience with music videos.  She has directed clips by bands included Blink 182, Babyface, 3 Doors Down and Simple Plan.

So if you like the sounds of it, take two steps forward and off you go!