Englishman Peter Chelsom directed the "flatfooted" comedy drama Shall We Dance? starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. It's the story of a middle-aged man who rediscovers his passion for life through ballroom dancing, but it paled in comparison to the 1996 Japanese original. After mixed reviews, the film stumbled at the box office, although an A-list cast managed to keep it just inside the profit margin.
For those who've been swept up in the recent revival of ballroom dancing, the featurette Beginner's Ballroom may be of interest. It offers a potted history of the sport by aficionados including the film's choreographer Joanne Janssen, who sternly wags her finger and barks, "Waltz and Viennese Waltz are two different dances!" (We're inclined to believe her.) The cast also offer their two-bits worth, but at just over 6 minutes long, don't expect anything more than a cursory introduction to the world of ballroom.
In a rather more substantial behind-the-scenes featurette, Richard Gere explains that it was "the fear of failing" which had him waltzing till dawn after his co-stars had clocked out for the day. Sadly we don't get to see his efforts in any of the rehearsal footage shown here. Instead you can watch Lopez in training and doing a pretty good job of it too. Of course she started out as a dancer, but insists that "ballroom is a whole different animal" to the disco steps she's used to. Aside from that, it's the usual rundown of story, casting and characters.
There's yet more hoofing in five deleted scenes along with an alternative opening. It begins with a very stylised title sequence that Chelsom admits (in his optional commentary) "belonged to another film" and which leads into a secretly miserable Gere putting on a happy face for his co-workers. Stanley Tucci fans can also enjoy a longer version of the Dr Dance routine.
Step By Step
Chelsom's feature commentary lags in places, but he does tell a few amusing - and alarmingly honest - anecdotes. He admits, "I was very wary about remaking such a perfect original," so he initially passed on the job offer and, he says, "I lied to Miramax and told them I'd read the script". Apparently, Miramax offered him precisely the same screenplay a year later, telling him that there'd been "extensive rewrites". Of course, this time Chelsom actually bothered reading it and called back to accept, telling Miramax it was "much, much better"...
Later on, he offers some interesting stylistic notes eg, the waltz measures the "emotional beats" in the story while the tango is used for comedic purposes. There is a featurette specifically focused on the movie soundtrack, but this just ends up being a promo reel for girl band Pussycat Dolls whose video Sway is thrown in for good measure.
Overall there's quite a bit of waffle and wadding to cut through and ballroom buffs won't be too impressed by the level of background information. Still, if you enjoyed the film, there's enough behind-the-scene trivia to make this DVD worth stepping out for.