[Screen It]


(1998) (Vanessa L. Williams, Chayanne) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Moderate None None
Minor None None None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Minor Minor None

Romantic Drama: A young man inspires and rekindles the love of dancing in a former ballroom champion.
Having recently lost his mother, a young Cuban man, Rafael Infante (CHAYANNE) is elated upon learning that he's gotten a job in America. Traveling to Houston, Rafael meets John Burnett (KRIS KRISTOFFERSON), the grizzled owner of the Excelsior dance studio. It turns out John knew the young man's mother years earlier, and thus decides to help Rafael -- despite planning to retire and close down the studio -- by giving him a job as the studio's handyman.

Naturally buoyant and charming, Rafael soon becomes a favorite among the staff, including Patricia (JAN KRAKOWSKI), as well as the students such as Bea Johnson (JOAN PLOWRIGHT), a senior citizen with a continued spark for life. However, he doesn't initially impress Ruby Sinclair (VANESSA L. WILLIAMS), a former ballroom dance champion and the woman to whom he's instantly attracted.

Now a dance instructor and single mom to son, Peter (CHAZ OSWILL), Ruby is still bitter that her former partner and lover, Julian (RICK VALENZUELA) dumped her years ago and has continued to dance and be successful. Even so, Rafael soon begins to break through her distant demeanor and the two begin to hang out and do things together.

With less than a month before a big competition in Las Vegas, however, Ruby decides to rejoin Julian in hopes of being a champion once again. As Rafael copes with her sudden absence, he also prepares to compete with Patricia, all while dealing with John who may be harboring some long buried secret.

If they're fans of someone in the cast or of dance-related movies, they might, but other than for some teens, this film probably isn't high on most kids' must-see lists.
For mild language and sensuality.
  • VANESSA L. WILLIAMS plays a somewhat bitter, former dance champion who starts to fall for Rafael.
  • CHAYANNE plays the young Cuban who pursues Ruby's affection and is an all around likeable and charming guy.
  • KRIS KRISTOFFERSON plays the grizzled owner of the club who holds back a secret until near the end of the film, and does most of the film's cussing.


    OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
    Moderately fun and charming, but lacking anything nearing a substantial plot and at least half an hour too long, "Dance With Me" is the latest entry in the dance oriented, romantic drama genre. Although dance competitors and afficionados might get a kick out of the picture's dance numbers, don't expect mainstream audiences to make this picture a hit like "Saturday Night Fever" or "Dirty Dancing."

    Despite the plentiful dance related material and individual numbers, the reason for that is because only two of the numbers -- an early scene set in a Latin dance club where partners are exchanged in rapid fire succession, along with the first lively number in the competitive finale -- stand out as big audience pleasers. The rest of the material is okay, but none of it will last long in one's memory as have numbers from those other well-known movies.

    If not for the music and dancing, however, there would hardly be anything left worth noting. As written by first time screenwriter Daryl Matthews (a former dancer and one of the film's choreographers), the story is about as threadbare as possible and features little dramatic conflict to hold one's interest.

    Following the standard formula where the would-be lovers are initially at odds, eventually fall for each other, and then break up -- egad! -- right before the big finale, the film's few dramatic elements and conflict feel artificial and forced. Despite having a less than thirty day countdown to the big Vegas dance championship, there's absolutely no urgency present, and the only real conflict exists between what motivates the leads on the dance floor and a paternally related element that's too obvious to generate much interest.

    The same holds true for the theme of family and "home" that permeates the film. While there's certainly nothing wrong with that in general, the filmmakers have pounded that message so hard -- and too obviously with an accompanying piano driven sentimental score -- that it's surprising a flashing "important message" title doesn't appear on screen to accompany and notify the audience of such moments.

    Although none of that makes the film horrible by any means and its fluffy charm counters some of the problems, its overall weakness is surprising considering that Randa Haines serves as the director. Responsible for helming pictures such as "Children of a Lesser God" and "The Doctor," Haines obviously knows how to tell a compelling story, but seems more interested here in letting the dance material take center stage over the plot. Unfortunately, except for those two decent dance numbers, most of the remaining material is rather bland.

    Surprisingly, the same generally holds true for the performances and the chemistry between the leads. While international Latino star Chayanne (who makes his Hollywood debut performance) has boatloads of charm, and beauty pageant queen, turned singer, turned actress, Vanessa L. Williams ("Soul Food," "Eraser") is radiantly gorgeous and certainly competent, I just never bought into their chemistry together. Nor did I ever experience that "warm, fuzzy feeling" often associated with hoping (and knowing) that the two will eventually be a couple.

    A few of their early scenes have some spark, but there's a lack of any overall electricity needed to make the film really work, such as is usually found in any number of successful films in the romance genre. Much of that, however, is directly the fault of the weak script and its underdeveloped characters, and not from the performances themselves.

    Comeback kid, Kris Kristofferson ("A Star Is Born," "Lone Star") -- who appears in two pictures this week (the other being "Blade") -- is adequate in his role, but likewise suffers from a poorly written character (and isn't helped by it being a mostly introverted role). All of that leaves the supporting cast to take up the slack, but even they are only giving a few moments to shine individually.

    With only tiny bits of conflict or dramatic interest present, the film hangs around like an attractive, but ultimately boring dance partner, and if not for a singular country-western dance number, you'd never guess the film was set in Houston what with all of the immigrants and scenes set in Latin dance clubs.

    About as predictable as they come, featuring an array of dance numbers that are mostly and surprisingly bland considering the picture is counting on them to carry it, and way too long at more than two hours, the film has to be considered something of a disappointment, despite the talented cast. We give "Dance With Me" just a 3.5 out of 10.

    Beyond some mild language (including 1 "s" word and a few others), a few bad attitudes (in particular Ruby's old partner), and a brief sensual scene and some partially revealing dance outfits, there's little other material that should be of major concern to most viewers. Even so, you may want to take a closer look at the content should you be concerned about the film's overall appropriateness.

  • Rafael and a buddy drink shots of liquor.
  • We see a large billboard promoting Lone Star beer.
  • Rafael and John each drink a shot of liquor.
  • People drink in a club and Rafael and Ruby carry drinks, but we don't see them drinking.
  • Rafael and Ruby drink beer while eating.
  • John has a beer while fishing.
  • People have drinks at the dance competition, and then at a party afterwards, including Rafael.
  • None.
  • Ruby has a bit of a conceited attitude toward Rafael early in the story.
  • Julian has both for deserting Ruby after getting her pregnant (long before the story begins), and for being an egotistic jerk toward her again.
  • As the zipper on the back of Ruby's low-cut dress starts to come undone, several men lustfully watch in anticipation, but nothing happens as Rafael saves her from embarrassment.
  • A character has some for having not accepted his paternal responsibilities over the years.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrase: "Screw it up."
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "s" word, 9 hells, 2 asses (1 used with "hole"), 2 damns, 1 S.O.B., and 1 use each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • A few women's outfits, including some worn by Ruby -- show some cleavage. Likewise, a few of the dance outfits are rather short (or cleavage revealing -- including some bikini tops), exposing some upper thighs, and in one instance, most of a woman's bare butt as she's lowered back down to the dance floor (as John somewhat holds her skirt revealing her thong-like underwear).
  • Two casual encounters -- both of which occurred years before the story begins -- resulted in children born out of wedlock to single mothers.
  • As the zipper on the back of Ruby's low-cut dress starts to come undone, several men lustfully watch in anticipation, but nothing happens as Rafael saves her from embarrassment.
  • Some brief, but passionate kissing occurs between Rafael and Ruby in her bathroom (but no nudity and they stop rather quickly, realizing it's the wrong thing to do).
  • Some background characters smoke in a few scenes.
  • Ruby's partner says he's going out for a smoke, but we don't see him smoking.
  • John accepts a Cuban cigar from Rafael.
  • We see Rafael laying flowers on his mother's grave and learn that she's recently died. We then later learn that he never knew his father. In addition, John asks Rafael if he misses his mother.
  • Ruby is raising her son without a father since he hit the road before the child was born.
  • The importance of family and "home" that the film expounds.
  • Dance competitions.
  • None.

  • Reviewed August 17, 1998

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