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Love n` Dancing not light on its feet

Love n` Dancing not light on its feet

Source: AssociatedPress

By: Christy Lemire

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Friday 15 May 2009

Movie Title

Love n` Dancing not light on its feet

Director

Robert Iscove

Star Cast

Amy Smart, Tom Malloy, Billy Zane, Nicola Royston, Caroline Rhea, Leila Arcieri

The most astounding move in Love n' Dancing doesn't occur on the dance floor. Rather, it's the fact that this movie is appearing in theatres at all, and not going straight to cable where it belongs.

Everything about it cries out "made-for-TV," from the flat, glossy lighting to the stilted dialogue to the one-dimensional characters. Would-be moments of drama quickly turn melodramatic, but are just as quickly solved, and the supposedly comic scenes are just plain corny. Even the pacing feels like something you'd see on television, complete with transitional shots between scenes of the Philadelphia skyline or the outside of the dance academy.

None of this should come as any huge surprise, since director Robert Iscove is a television veteran, but you'd think he'd alter his approach for the big screen (among his previous films are She's All That and From Justin to Kelly). The script, though, comes from Tom Malloy, who also stars as a dancer and motivational speaker. In real life, Malloy is?wait for it?a dancer and motivational speaker. So Love n' Dancing is essentially an infomercial for himself.

Malloy plays Jake Mitchell, who's described in the film's promotional materials as having "everything going for him?looks, personality and style". In reality, he's pretty average. But five years ago, he was the two-time World West Coast Swing champion. Now he's teaching dance and speaking at schools about disabilities: He's deaf from an ear infection he suffered as a teenager, but he can hear with devices in his ears and lip-reading, and he can feel the music's vibrations when he dances.

So you see, it's a Very Special made-for-TV movie. People treat Jake poorly out of ignorance, but he never gets angry or down on himself. We can all learn a lesson about tolerance from him. Love n' Dancing isn't terribly subtle about this point.

While speaking at a middle school, Jake meets Jessica (Amy Smart), who danced as a child but now toils away as a bland English teacher. She's so profoundly moved by Jake's talk that she signs up herself and her fianc?, Kent (Billy Zane), for lessons before their wedding.

Clearly, though, Jake and Jessica are destined for each other, which would have been obvious even if Kent weren't an irreparable jerk who refuses to show up for class. (He must be a bad guy because he's constantly making business deals on his Bluetooth. This is his primary defining characteristic.)

Jessica, meanwhile, blossoms under Jake's tutelage. How do we know this? Because at the beginning of the movie, she has her blond hair pulled back in a tight bun and she wears dark-rimmed glasses. By the end, her hair is down and she's wearing contacts. In case we couldn't detect this for ourselves, Jessica's generically wisecracking pal (Caroline Rhea) spells it out.

There's some flimsy subplot in which Jake's ex-fianc?e and dance partner tries to reconcile with him once she sees him thriving without her, but she never poses any real threat. There's also a baffling waste of Betty White in one scene, while Rachel Dratch is relegated to playing the neurotic lesbian receptionist at the dance school.

Regardless of these random tangents, there's only one place a movie like this can go: the big dance-off! Following the obligatory training montage, Jake returns to the championships with Jessica as his partner. Sure, the moves are complicated, but you can see this sort of thing done more entertainingly and efficiently on Dancing With the Stars.

Love n' Dancing, a Screen Media Films release, is rated PG-13 for some sexual references.

Rating: One star out of four.

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