An Office Worker and a Dancer
It may share a title with the Astaire & Rogers movie from 1937 movie from 1937 but this version of "Shall We Dance" is in fact a remake of a popular Japanese movie and as often happens Hollywood came along and decided to remake it for an American audience. Whilst I have yet to watch the Japanese original I am sure it is better than this Hollywood version of "Shall We Dance" which whilst not terrible is only ever average. And the simple reason why "Shall We Dance" is average is because it hasn't got a heart and so whilst the storyline is good and the soundtrack is catchy it ends up a case of actors such as Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez going through their paces.
John Clark (Richard Gere - Chicago) may have a good life with a good job as well as a loving wife and family his routine existence is getting him down. So one day on the regular train ride home from work he gets off and enlists at Miss Mitzi's (Anita Gillette) dance studio, not because he is that interested in taking dance lessons but he is intrigued by the pretty Paulina (Jennifer Lopez - Jersey Girl) who every night as he passes has watched as she longingly stares out of the dance studio's window. But whilst John may have signed up to find out more about Paulina he discovers he loves dancing, something he keeps a secret from his wife Beverly (Susan Sarandon) who becomes suspicious when she notices ha has a spring in his step.
The actual storyline to "Shall We Dance" is surprisingly good for the simple reason it actually builds up the various elements rather than plonking things together which is far too often the case. What I mean is that when we meet John Clark he is happily married and we presume successful at his job but it is very obvious that life's mundane ways have gotten him down and he is feeling the need to shake things up. It gives us the motive as to why he would even think of getting off the train rather than going firectly home. But then it brings in this under current that is he going to the dance studio because he wants a change or because he is attracted to Paulina.
Now in many movies there wouldn't be a lot more to it than this but "Shall We Dance" continues to evolve as we watch John fall in love with dancing whilst his wife becomes suspicious of his obvious mood change. And then there are the friendships which form especially between John and Link, his co-worker and secret dancer. Plus there continues to be this ambiguity of feelings between John and Paulina the pretty instructor who takes the dance classes. To put it simply the storyline is well constructed and whilst certain things can be expected it evolves nicely.
What is also nice is the various moments of humour be it John's initial tentative steps into the world of dancing or the gentle humour which flits between him and his wife in their domestic situation. It's a nice blend because you have the gentle humour and then you have the more full on over the top humour and once again Stanley Tucci is a scene stealer with his enthusiastic performance as Link, with his false teeth, wig and painted on tan. To be honest as a comedy "Shall We Dance" works, just a shame then that its heart is missing.
The trouble is that in many ways the casting is wrong when it comes to Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez, as the rest of the cast are in fact quite good and deliver the majority of the laughs. When it comes to the various dancing scenes Lopez certainly has the passion but in the countless non dancing scenes she is far too cold even for a character who we learn is heart broken. And then there is Richard Gere who looks far too stiff through out the entire movie, in fairness you expect his character to be stiff and awkward at the start but by the end it's still the same. Not to be cruel Gere has got this handsome quality about him and it feels at times he's been cast because he can pull of the big romantic gestures and a scene which require him to show up looking dashing in a tuxedo.
What this all boils down to is that "Shall We Dance" is an entertaining movie and the blend of comedy, dancing and soundtrack will entertain. But it is lacking a heart and in a way it comes from the central casting being wrong as it is all about how Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez look rather than the depth of character.