Take the Lead

"Very Good"

Take the Lead Review


Liz Friedlander's Take the Lead is a marginally fictional biopic of Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas), the real-life New York dance instructor who found himself compelled to educate bad-seed, inner-city high school students. It is a familiar story with an original approach - Friedlander applies the elegance of a waltz to the natural arrogance of hip-hop music.

The picture arrives at the tail end of our nation's current dance craze, which could affect its overall success. Documentary film fans caught a similar story in last year's Mad Hot Ballroom, and primetime television audiences already have tuned in to two seasons of Dancing with the Stars. How many people will be willing to have their cards punched for another tango around the dance floor?

Dulaine comes up with the inventive outreach program after witnessing troubled teen Rock (Rob Brown) take a 9-iron to his principal's car late one night. The dance instructor launches an after-school program, but administrator Augustine James (Alfre Woodard) limits him to the detention-hall castoffs.

These forgotten students represent the easiest of Hollywood stereotypes, though the physically gifted young actors make a valiant effort to inject life into their cookie-cutter representations. Rock and tough girl Larhette (Yaya DaCosta) have a violent history that goes beyond the classroom and into the streets. The overweight "Monster" (Brandon Andrews) possesses the will to dance but can't convince a female partner to join him. Brazen gangster Ramos (Dante Basco) isn't short on confidence, but could use a few etiquette lessons. The story balances the racial equation by giving equal time to Caitlin (Lauren Collins), one of Dulaine's upscale dance clients who wrestles with nerves as she prepares for her pending cotillion.

Friedlander makes her feature film debut after learning the ropes on music videos for Simple Plan, R.E.M., and 3 Doors Down. Her cameras sway in rhythm with the cast's dancing feet. She also employs quick edits without being choppy - a common mistake of first-time directors.

But if Friedlander is graceful, then screenwriter Dianne Houston has two left feet. She pens the clumsiest of obstacles for these kids - Caitlin's cotillion happens to be the same night as the city-wide dance competition... oh no! Houston's Lead script contains as many overused clichés as it does hip gyrations. But as bad as they are, they never sink the overall feel-good messages reaching out to the teens in the audience.

Banderas is the right choice to play Dulaine, something I wouldn't have said five years ago. Once content to rehash his fiery Spanish guise no matter the role, the actor has matured into a warm, paternal, and credible father figure. He instills Dulaine with an instructor's passion and patience.

As Banderas grows up, I merely grow old. I've seen plenty of movies like Lead, where a tough-love teacher schools misguided teens. For the first time, though, I related more to the instructor than I did to the kids. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch The Breakfast Club for the umpteenth time so I can pretend to be Judd Nelson for the rest of the day.

Off to see the wizard.



Take the Lead

Facts and Figures

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th April 2006

Box Office USA: $34.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $34.7M

Budget: $30M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: New Line Cinema

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 67

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Liz Friedlander

Producer: , Christopher Godsick, Michelle Grace

Starring: as Pierre Dulaine, as Rock, as LaRhette, as Augustine James, as Mr. Temple, as Tina, Katya Virshilas as Morgan, as Sasha

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

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...

Advertisement
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,...

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...

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.