Dance with Me (1998)

reviewed by
Berge Garabedian

RATING:  5.5 / 10 --> Not good enough to recommend

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Latin sensation Chayanne makes his way over to the United States of America to star in this bubble gum, saccharine-filled romantic dance movie, opposite the green-eyed, and always beautiful, Vanessa L. Williams.

PLOT: Young Cuban man Rafael comes to the U.S. to find his real father. Upon arrival, he works as a handyman at a local dance studio, and falls for one of the dance teachers who happens to be rehearsing for the annual Latin dance contest in Las Vegas. Dancing shoes pronounced, Rafael also gets the opportunity to compete in the contest. Dance and romance soon blooms.

CRITIQUE: Light, mostly corny, lengthy dance-themed movie, that does have a great soundtrack, and some good performances by the two, beautiful, charismatic leads, Chayanne and Vanessa L. Williams. I would not necessarily suggest this film for its romantic aspects, because they are pretty weak, but if you like to stare at either of the film's main stars, and if you like the Latin vibe and/or the dancing, then you might not be totally disappointed with this movie. Having said that, the dancing sequences seemed to be absent during most of the first hour of the film, but did take over the movie, once the whole gang was transported to Las Vegas for the dance contests.

Chayanne, in his first American starring role, is the rich man's Benicio Del Toro. He's great looking, dresses impeccably, dances like a machine, and radiates great sensations with his full-toothed smile. He also pulls off a humorous and original tribute to Gene Kelly from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Vanessa L. Williams also looks great in this film, if you like girls with super-short skirts, great legs and pumps, that is. (turns out I do). There is also some chemistry between the two, but unfortunately, the screenplay is pretty lame, and doesn't really do a great job of convincing you of their absolute compatibility. No cheap sex scenes either. Which was a bit of a letdown for most people, I think. Then again, who cares. These bastards could dance up a storm and look great doing it, so if that's what you're looking for, shell out your hard-earned cash, and have a blast!

One extremely funny aspect of this film, was the fact that Kris Kristofferson was actually cast as an experienced dance instructor, and a man with actual emotions. It was funny watching him move around like an ass, and squeeze his lips tight to convey emotion. On a positive note, the soundtrack was very sweet, reminded me a bit of the MAMBO KINGS (7.5/10) vibe, and the salsa music kept reminding me of the nacho plate that I would soon make myself, once I got home and dug into some real salsa. Having said all that, it must be said that I have never been a dancer, a fan of dance, or a fan of dance movies, but Mrs. JoBlo is. You figure out the pant-wearing scenario in that equation. For the record, she also rated the film a measly 6/10.

Little Known Facts: This film was previously titled SHUT UP AND DANCE. The "L" in Vanessa L. Williams' name stands for Lynn. She is often confused with actress Vanessa Williams from the "Chicago Hope" TV series. The Screen Actors Guild assigned her with the name Vanessa L. Williams but the initial rarely appears in credits. The SAG will only make it an issue if the other actress objects. Even news stories often confuse the two. Vanessa dropped out of Syracuse University to pursue the Miss America crown in 1983, and never finished her degree. Once crowned Miss America, she was dethroned when nude photos of her surfaced in Penthouse magazine. The centerfold model for that issue was 16-year-old Traci Lords. Now since Ms. Lords was underage at the time, it is illegal to own or trade that issue of the magazine, unless the centerfold pictorial is removed. Vanessa had three children with her husband of 10 years, Ramon Hervey (They divorced in 1997.) Screenwriter Daryl Matthews, partnered with Liz Curtis, was also responsible for the choreography of the dance sequences in this film (He is a former dancer himself.) Chayanne is born in Puerto-Rico, where he is a recording artist and TV soap actor.

Review Date:         August 23, 1998
Director:                Randa Haines
Writer:                 Daryl Matthews
Producers:         Randa Haines, Shinya Egawa and Lauren Weissman
Actors:                 Chayanne as Rafael Infante                        
                Vanessa L. Williams as Ruby Sinclair
                Kris Kristofferson as John Burnett
Genre:                 Romantic Dance
Year of Release:         1998
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(c) 1998 Berge Garabedian

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