When producers David Madden and Robert Cort hit on the idea for a dance movie, there had been very little bopping on-screen since the 80s zip of "Flashdance", "Footloose", and "Dirty Dancing". Little could they have known that "Billy Elliot" (which had depth and life) and "Centre Stage" (which had shallowness and clichés) would beat them to the cinemas.
But finally they have released "Save the Last Dance" which, unembarrassed by its own stack of clichés, has a white middle class suburban girl conquer her insecurity through dance, develop a relationship with the black crown prince of a Chicago hip-hop club, put up with the resentment of other girls, sob hugely, then smile before the inevitable happens. Urban issues, in contrast to her own journey, bob in and out of the film.
However, Julia Stiles - who plays the tearful protagonist - is a sensitive, expressive actor who can bring class to the most anaemic outing, even when weighed down by the obvious. She is particularly effective when the film, having started out with an extremely skinny script, breathes life into the relationship between her and Sean Patrick Thomas who (while a lesser actor than she) nonetheless invigorates some pretty flat scenes. It's just a pity for the actors and the audience that the theme of conquering one's background, prejudices, and limitations has to be spelled out in block capitals.
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