Save The Last Dance

"OK"

Save The Last Dance Review


If you can buy into the concept that a loving mother with a nice house in the suburbs and a current model-year Jeep wouldn't have provided for her teenage daughter in her will, you might buy into the concept of "Save the Last Dance."

It's about an aspiring ballerina named Sara (the seemingly ubiquitous Julia Stiles) whose mother dies in a car accident while rushing to make it to her daughter's Juilliard audition.

The audition and the car crash were laughably juxtaposed in the editing room for tacky melodramatic flair -- as Sara takes a spill on stage and blows her big chance, mom's car is being pummeled by an 18-wheeler.

But I digress. In the wake of her mother's devastating demise, 17-year-old Sara is apparently left with no option but to move in with her negligent father (Terry Kinney), a struggling jazz musician who lives in the ghetto of Chicago's South Side. Forced to adjust to a whole new way of life, Sara feels like an outcast in her new school (she's almost the only white kid, and the metal detectors come as a bit of a shock).

But fate is a funny thing. Here in this jarring, urban world of drive-bys and people who say "aaaight!" she meets Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), a charming, hip-hop intellectual (he wants to be a doctor and can quote Truman Capote!) with a petty criminal past, and discovers that -- to quote the press kit provided by Paramount and MTV Films -- "they share one fervent passion -- dance!"

You probably don't need me to paint the rest of the picture -- Sara rediscovering her devotion to ballet through romantic hip-hop dance lessons that free her creativity, Derek facing a tough decision when his troubled, pure-ghetto best friend wants him along on a drive-by. But while "Last Dance" is pathetically contrived and predictable, it does have a certain spark thanks to a glowing, whetted amorous chemistry between Stiles ("State and Main," "Down to You") and Thomas ("Cruel Intentions").

These two seem to really understand the nuances of their characters. Their credible, quite astute performances keep the film afloat for a while, and director Thomas Carter ("Swing Kids," "Metro") manages to touch on a few social issues without it feeling like a pat on the head or a load of politically correct crap. (One of the best scenes in the movie sees Derek's sister chewing Sara out for snatching up "one of the few good black men left after drugs, jail and drive-bys.")

Carter also builds palpable verve in the many dance scenes, even when they're just rickety plot devices. But he can't overcome the fact that the plot is ultimately more teen drama gimmick than it is an actors' showcase or a vehicle for altruistic insight.

Even the good elements of the "Last Dance" unravel in the third act, which begins with a inane, out-of-character spat between our young lovers that serves only to set up meaningless conflict that must be resolved so cymbals can crash on the soundtrack when they're reunited at Sara's second Juilliard audition -- the one Derek comes to at the last minute after choosing her and a scholarship to Georgetown over throwing his life away by covering his homies' backs during a gang dispute.

Here's a perfect example of where Carter lets the movie get sloppy: Even though Derek's best friend is a minor supporting character whose story is irrelevant, he follows along to the kid's doomed gun battle just so he can edit together the violence and the beauty of Sara's audition -- again. And in slow motion.

Then to tactlessly demonstrate Sara's success this time, he cuts to shots of the snooty arts school judges nodding along in rhythm to the down-wit-it soul music she's dancing to.

Give it a rest, buddy.

"Save the Last Dance" does a fairly good job avoiding stereotype pratfalls and there's plenty of evidence that Carter is capable of rising above the material (the cinematography, the nuanced performances). Had he tried a little harder to overcome the picture's conventions, it might have been something more than just another MTV-produced teenage romance.



Save The Last Dance

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th January 2001

Box Office Worldwide: $91M

Budget: $13M

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Sara Johnson, as Derek Reynolds, as Chenille Reynolds, as Malakai, as Roy Johnson, as Nikki, Vince Green as Snookie, Garland Whitt as Kenny, Elisabeth Oas as Diggy, Artel Great as Arvel, Cory Stewart as Lip, Jennifer Anglin as Glynn, Dorothy Martin as Momma Dean, Kim Tlusty as Lindsay Johnson, Felicia Fields as Woman on Train, Ora Jones as Mrs. Gwynn, Tab Baker as Mr. Campbell, Kevin Reid as Wonk, Andrew Rothenberg as Stern Judge, Mekdes Bruk as Lakisha

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.