Shall We Dance? (1996) Poster

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Ordinary yet extraordinary. Simply beautiful.
ms_jade_li5 October 2004
Watched this last night and was bowled over by the heartfelt story line, the excellent character development, and the good karmic vibe emanating from the acting and movie as a whole.

Without giving away too much of the plot, it begins with an ordinary joe who commutes to his office job every day who becomes inspired to take dance lessons. Along the way the protagonist and the assorted characters he meets in his quest to be smooth on the dance floor learn lessons about others and about themselves.

The story has a prologue about what dancing in Japan symbolizes sociologically, so it isn't exactly as simple to learn to dance in Japan as it is here in the U.S.

The film is lighthearted; you'll laugh out loud at some of the sight gags. Yet it is also dignified in a way hard to describe. All of the film's characters are taken seriously, as they are, and none are diminished because of their "imperfections."

I've been thinking about taking social dance classes with some friends. It just so happened a friend lent me the video on learning to dance. Is this synchronous or what? I think so because now I'm really geeked to give it a try.

Watch this wonderful family film (small children might not get it, but teens certainly would) and smile at the genuine caring you see shown in it time and again.

Why they would make a remake of Shall We Dance is a mystery, as it is perfect as-is.
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Definitely a must see...
jon_shimamoto18 October 2004
Okay. As you can see this is one of my favorite if not favorite films. This is a character drama which is absolutely hilarious. The main character is a business man who is stuck in a "same thing, different day" mentality. He sees a woman looking melancholy out a window of a dance studio from his train everyday and wonders about her and decides to find out more about her. He decides to join the dance class only to find out she is not the instructor. From there he bonds with four other dancers and learns to enjoy dancing as well as finding out about the mysterious woman.

There is no gratuitous (or any) sex involved, just how a small group of people learn how friendships are formed and developed.

This film was remade with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez and the new one while appealing is nowhere as enjoyable as the original. The movie never made it big in America because it was not eligible for the Oscars since it was broadcast on television in Japan (movies cannot be released on TV or they are disqualified for Oscar nominations). It did win numerous awards in Japan for best film, cast, director etc for their "Oscar" awards.
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Heartwarming film
lingmeister26 December 2002
This film is about a man who has been too caught up with the accepted convention of success, trying to be ever upwardly mobile, working hard so that he could be proud of owning his own home. He assumes this is all there is to life until he accidentally takes up dancing, all because he wanted to get a closer look of a beautiful girl that he sees by the dance studio everyday while riding the subway on his way home.

His was infatuated with her at first, going to the dance class just to idolize her, but he eventually lets himself go and gets himself into the dancing. It eventually becomes apparent to him that there is more to life than working yourself to death. There is a set of oddball characters also learning in the studio, giving the film a lot of laughs and some sense of bonding between the dejected.

There is also revelations of various characters, including the girl he initially admired, giving some depth to them by showing their blemished past and their struggle to overcome it.

The dancing was also engaging, with the big competition at the end, but it is not the usual story where our underdog come out at the top by winning it. Instead, there are downfalls, revelations and redemption.

All these makes it a moving and fun film to watch.
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A pleasing experience
Ob_z11 October 2004
I was so surprised when I saw this film so much underrated... I understand why some of you dislike this movie. Its pace is slow, a characteristic of Japanese films. Nevertheless, if you are absorbed in the film like me, you will find this not a problem at all.

I must say this is the best comedy I have ever seen. "Shall We Dansu?" is often considered a masterpiece of Japanese comedies. It is very different from Hollywood ones, e.g. Austin Powers or Scary Movies, in which a gag is guaranteed in every couple of minutes. Rather, it is light-hearted, a movie that makes you feel good.

I love the movie because it makes me feel "real". The plot is straightforward yet pleasing. I was so delighted seeing that Sugiyama (the main role) has found the meaning of life in dancing. Before I watched the film I was slightly depressed due to heavy schoolwork. I felt lost. However, this film made me think of the bright side of life. I believed I was in the same boat of Sugiyama; if he could find himself in his hobby, why couldn't I? It reminded me of "exploring my own future" and discovering the happiness in my daily life.

It is important to note that the actors are not professional dancers. While some of you may find the dancing scenes not as perfect as you expect, I kinda like it as it makes me feel that the characters are really "alive", learning to dance as the film goes on.

Over all, this film is encouraging and heart-warming. As a comedy, it does its job perfectly. It definitely deserves 10 stars.

And yes Aoki is funny :-D
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A subtle and intricate film
J L6 July 2004
I don't like "grade inflation" but I just had to give this a 10. I can't think of anything I didn't like about it. I saw it last night and woke up today thinking about it. I'm sure that the Hollywood remake that someone told me about, with J Lo and Richard Gear, will be excellent, but this original Japanese version from 1996 was so emotional and thought-provoking for me that I am hard-pressed to think of any way that it could be improved, or its setting changed to a different culture.

A story I found worth watching, and with o fist-fight scenes or guns going off or anything of the sort! Imagine that!

All the characters seemed well-developed, ... even non-primary characters had good character-development and enjoyable acting, and the casting seemed very appropriate.

It's always hard to find a good movie-musical in our day and age, and perhaps this doesn't quite qualify (there is plenty of learning how to dance, but no singing) but I really think that Gene Kelly and others who championed a place for dance in our lives would have thought so very highly of this film and the role of dance in helping to tell a story about a middle aged man, successful with a family in Japan, looking for something... he knows not precisely what.

To the team of people in Japan who contributed to this film, thank you for creating and doing it.
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Magical and Meaningful
ven2s2 November 2004
This movie is among my favorite foreign films, some of the others are Amilee and My Life As a Dog. The similarities with those movies as with so many great foreign films, is that it takes a mundane slice of life and transforms it into a profound heartfelt lesson.

In Japan, a man who is bored with his mundane life and the rut of his married life, sees a beautiful Japanese woman staring out the window of a dance studio. In the instant that it takes his train to pass, he is enthralled by her. But is it only by her beauty, by her faraway glance, or a connection that they will both discover that they share?

Shall We Dance has memorable wonderful characters who have to deal with painful realities by transcending them through the world of dance. Breaking traditional moulds and stereo types of Japanese society, they risk all for happiness and find that joy is not too far away. It is one of those movies that is so magical and meaningful and, in itself, transcends the mundane by showing the true magic and miracle that life can be.
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Heartwarming and funny
tabi_maya30 July 2004
First, there is NO way the remake can be as good, because Japanese society is quite different from ours and plays such a major part in this film, as explained in the opening narration. It adds to the humor as well as warmth of this movie. There is slew of different supporting characters/personalities. Each does there part in making this movie wonderful. This movie is full of comedy that isn't vulgar in anyway like most of today's "gross-out comedies." Yet it can still have you laughing out loud. The reality is, in real life, you don't have a choice of who you work with or go to school with...etc. This movie truly emphasizes that and shows that the natural good in people can overcome petty differences. Not to mention, it makes for a great sub-plot and much of the humor. This is a story about dance that actually has a story, and a good one at that. There are a few back stories that are not out of place, but actually support the main storyline. Truly a well written film. The dancing is great, too. I happen to be a fan of any movie with dancing of any sort, for that aspect. However, this movie goes beyond any other with dance, in the fact that, it is a story First and just happens to be written about dancing in Japanse society. Highly recommended.

10 out of 10.
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A brilliant film. Not to be missed.
Julie Southwell23 July 2001
How many of us wish that we could throw away social and cultural obligations and be free? Most of us, I suspect. Shall we dance? is not a movie about dancing. It is about learning about ourselves, recognising what we are looking for in life and having the courage to go in search of it. Mr Sugiyama is a middle-aged member of a Japanese society where ballroom dancing is viewed as unsuitable behaviour.

One day Mr Sugiyama sees a beautiful girl leaning out of the window of a dancing acadamy. he is fascinated by her and eventually signs up for dancing lessons. He is ashamed of his dancing and afraid of ridicule. He hides the fact that he is attending dancing classes from his colleagues and family.

There is a hilarious scene in the mensroom at the office when Sugiyama and Watanabe, a workmate who also dances, are interrupted practising some dance steps. There are many other funny and warm-hearted scenes.

The ending is not a fairytale, but it leaves the viewer feeling good.

This movie helped me to understand the Japanese people a little better. It is a warm and very worthwhile film to see.
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The Passion of Life
caspian197818 June 2004
A good movie with an outstanding story. Many assume that the movie is a love story from the typical Hollywood style: boy meets girl love affair. This is not. It is a story of a man who forgot to love life. His everyday life has become routine and he has no idea where his life is taking him. He has a house and car payment and a family of 3 that he has to provide for. From home, he takes his bicycle to the train and then he takes the train to work. Everyday, same old, same old. Then, one day he sees something that turns his world up-side-down. Dancing? A new way to express himself, a way to communicate with others and show his true colors. The passion he finds is not in a woman or mere lust, but in living life to the fullest. He begins to stop and look around him as he uses dancing to live. A terrific cast of funny and heart filled characters. This is not a movie about Japan or the Japanese, although it does take place in Japan and the cast is made up of Japanese. The setting and the plot of this movie is timeless.
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A wonderful movie that proves Americans hate subtitles
oisradio7 March 2005
I simply love this movie. It is a perfect example of the well-rounded surprising stories that come out of Asian cinema. There was a recent Hollywood remake of this movie, with Richard Gere and the simply awful Jennifer Lopez. Please do not confuse the two movies. The original Japanese film is touching, subtle and wonderfully acted. The Hollywood version is the exact opposite. I was aghast when I first saw the trailer for the remade US Version and who was starring in it. It's typical Hollywood unoriginal crass commercialism at it's worst. The remake cements the argument that some foreign films can never be improved upon. The ONLY reason the original film did not become more widely viewed is the US audience's aversion to subtitles.

One of the main reasons this movie would never work in an American telling is that the reserved, ultra socially conservative character of the public Japanese persona is at issue in this movie. Certainly the main character awakens to a more full understanding of living a vivacious life through dance, but half of the movie's tension comes from the stereotypes and ridicule ballroom dancers face in Japan.

Please try to see this movie in it's original form, not the terrible full screen. And please DO skip the US's a shallow travesty in comparison to the original Japanese movie.

Yes, I know the "original" movie is much older, and this is simply a Japanese take on the story, but the only two people are likely to see any time soon are this one and the new US remake.

Speaking of foreign films, I'll make a few quick recommendations: 1.Monsoon Wedding-I list this first for a reason, outstanding film! 2.Johnny Stechino-Very funny Italian mistaken identity flic! 3.Shiri-A Korean action pic that mixes both Asian flare & US style plot 4.Run Lola Run-A German film that integrates it's techno score ingeniously.

Well, just a quick list anyway :-)
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A movie to love forever!
Rachel7708 January 2004
I have seen this movie many many times and I will never get tired of it. It is a classic in every sense of the word. The movie is hysterically funny and yet quite touching all at the same time. For those of you who are not a fan of "subtitles" or of foreign film in general, open your mind. This is a great movie for "the beginner" because the story is so entertaining. Don't get me wrong, it is 100% Japanese (and that is what makes it work), but everyone will get something out of it (even if it is just a great laugh at one of the main characters called Mr. Aoki - one of the funniest characters I have ever seen!)

I can't even think of this movie without smiling!! I love it ... and I think most people will too.
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Beautiful, just beautiful
Ed-9015 October 2000
Absolutely stunning, warmth for the head and the heart. The kind of movie western movie makers are too rushed, too frenetic to even attempt. My kids watched it, and they loved it too. What real people--goes to show you how cultural differences (the Japanese setting) is less important than the human similarities. Go see it, whether you like dancing or not.
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Shall We Dance? Yes!
peter0730 July 2000
This movie opened in Korea four years later than in Japan due to the now-defunct ban on Japanese pop culture in Korea. But the audiences in Korea were just as enthralled and enchanted by the story as the rest of the world was.

Like Japan, there are many salarymen in Korea who are also facing a mid-life crisis. After the movie premiered in Seoul, dance studios were reporting up to a 50-percent increase in the number of new students.

I took two years of jazz dance during college, and have seen Strictly Ballroom and Dance With Me. But this movie was the driving force behind me finally signing up for ballroom dance (called dancesport in Korea) lessons.

Mr. Aoki was hilarious as the employee who led a double life unbeknownst to his colleagues. It was also interesting to find out the reasons why the other students took lessons.

I too would have taken classes just to get close to the sexy dance instructor alone.

This movie is a perfect ten in my book.
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A moving, delicately told story.
Lisa-6616 August 1999
Funny. Sad. Charming. These are all words that floated through my head while I was watching this beautiful, simple film.

It is rare that a movie truly moves me, but "Shall We Dance?" accomplished that with grace to spare. Gentle humor mixed in with occasional subtle agony made this easily one of the best experiences of my movie-viewing history. It left me with a quiet sense of exultation, but with a small touch of sadness mixed in.

And the dancing, oh yes, the dancing. Even if you are not a lover of the art, or can't put one foot in front of another, the steps displayed here will take your breath away, and make you want to sign up for classes as fast as you can. It was absolutely enchanting, even the parts that show Sugiyama's (touchingly portrayed by Koji Yakusho) stilted steps when he was first learning to dance were lovely in a humorous, child-like way. And yet, this film was not entirely about dancing, but more about the subtleties of human behavior and feelings. We witness a shy man learning to express his repressed feelings through dance, a beautiful dance instructor rediscovering her love for the art, and the personal growth of every member of the wonderful supporting cast.

Beauty. Pain. Emotion. All the love and little agonies of life are here, expressed with the delicate feeling of a fine Japanese watercolor painting combined with the emotional strength and grace of the culture.
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A true love story....
Jason Sherry8 May 1999
If you are tired of films trying too hard to be fairy tales (the "Pretty Woman" variety love story), here is a beautiful film in which a Japanese businessman is pulled free from his robotic, dispassionate life when he falls in love...with dancing. Wonderfully drawn characters bring to life a story that is at once deeply funny and poignantly moving.
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Shall We Dance? Of Course!
Mike B26 February 2012
Fabulous! Heart-warming! It's lovely film to watch. It's in slow drive with a slow build-up– so don't expect any high-flouting gushy-type scenes. It's one of the few films that well demonstrates the gradualness and step- by-step approach involved of learning a new skill. The novice dancers don't become suddenly flamboyant – they awkwardly move along.

The main actor is wonderful and under-stated. I suppose he represents all us guys who are just too shy and inhibited to start to dance. There are some nice sub-plots – eclectic dancers, detectives and a daughter who steps in at the proper times. All and all a life-affirming film!
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About Mid-life Crisis And Ballroom Dancing
Desertman8428 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Shall We Dance is about a bored accountant Sugiyama,who on his evening commute,always looks at the beautiful woman who gazes wistfully out the window of the Kishikawa School of Dancing. One night he gets off the train, walks into the studio, and signs up for a class. Soon Sugiyama is so engrossed in his dancing he practices his steps on the train platform and under his desk, and becomes good enough for competition, compelling his wife to hire a private investigator to find out why he stays out late and returns home smelling of perfume.

Among the colorful characters Sugiyama meets is his coworker Aoki,who transforms himself from geeky systems analyst to hilariously flamboyant (and bad-wigged) lounge lizard. Aoki explains to Sugiyama, "When I finish work, put on the clothes, the wig and become Donny Burns, Latin world champion, and I start to move to the rhythm, I'm so happy, so completely free." Here lies the chief charm of Shall We Dance, the contrast between the ultra-competitive women of the studio--including the one who caught Sugiyama's eye, Mai --and the men who dance simply because they enjoy it.

This is a great film tackles issues such as the views on men in the Japanese culture,mid-life crisis and ballroom dancing.The cast in the film were excellent.This is one of the best Japanese films I have ever seen.And it is not a horror film.It takes into consideration the pains of middle-age and the need to feel alive during that stage.

Overall,it is the best non-horror Japanese film I have ever seen. Highly recommended to everyone who wants an entertaining movie.
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you don't have to speak Japanese to enjoy this movie.
john-177212 March 2005
I lived in Tokyo for 7 months. Knowing the reality of long train commutes, bike rides from the train station, soup stands, and other typical scenes depicted so well, certainly added to my own appreciation for this film which I really, really liked. There are aspects of Japanese life in this film painted with vivid colors but you don't have to speak Japanese to enjoy this movie. Director Suo's tricks were subtle for the most part; I found his highlighting the character called Tamako Tamura with a soft filter, making her sublime, a tiny bit contrived but most of the directors tricks were so gentle that I was fully pulled in and just danced with his characters. Or cried. Or laughed aloud. Wonderful. A+.
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A charming movie about finding one's niche
montebank25 July 2003
This movie was charming. An accountant wants more from life than the approved conventional success. What makes it work so well, and makes it so different from the standard dance movie is that it really isn't about becoming "Great" it is simply about finding a way to express one's self. The big triumph at the end is not the winning of a contest, not the discovery of a whole new life style, but the simple joy of doing what you want to fulfill the other parts of your life. No one is discovering their passion, they are finding their quiet soul.

The Japanese background makes the subtle oppression and "secret life" of ballroom dancing both understandable and personal. We can all see ourselves in the everyman.
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What a delightful film!
rabbitrunning18 June 2000
Subtitles should not deter you from this charmer of a film. Ballroom Dancing, which is seen as risque in Japan, becomes the unlikely passion of an accountant who has gotten everything he thought he wanted and found he missed out on happiness. He begins classes hoping to meet a girl he saw looking as sad as he was himself, but finds that dance has charms of its own. Like Babette's Feast, the insight into another culture, and the elegant structure of the film leave you more than satisfied.
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Another example of Japanese simplicity at its best.
padiyark26 February 2005
After hearing that "Shall We Dance" was remade from this movie, I had to see the original before seeing the re-make. What makes this movie stand out among the trash out there today is that it takes a very simple story about normal everyday people, and shows us that these people have extraordinary ambitions and talents. All this while exploring feelings of fulfillment and achievement. No complex plots, no cheap romances, no action thrills; just the pleasure of dance and its use as a tool for expression of the person within. The whole cast does a great job of carrying the story, and the material is presented as (in the words of most judges on Japan's "Iron Chef") "simple, yet complex" (or vice versa). Try to get this version if you can. Otherwise, the American remake will serve as a substitute until you get the original.
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Lovely and Delightful Movie
Claudio Carvalho15 October 2005
The accountant Shohei Sugiyama (Kôji Yakusho) is feeling bored with his routine life, limited to hard work and stay at home with his wife Masako Sugiyama (Hideko Hara) and his teenager's daughter. One night, while traveling home by train, he sees the beautiful face of Mai Kishikawa (Tamiyo Kusakari) in the balcony of a dance school, and a couple of days later, he decides to visit the school and secretly take ballroom dance lessons every Wednesdays night. However, he becomes ashamed to tell his family his secret. Meanwhile, Masako feels the changes in the behavior of her happier husband, and hires a private eye to investigate whether Shohei is having an affair.

I have just finished watching "Shall We Dansu?" and I really loved it. What a lovely and delightful movie! The story is amazingly good, with drama, comedy and romance. The cast is excellent, and I was particularly impressed with the cold beauty and graciousness of the wife of the director Masayuki Suo and professional ballet dancer Tamiyo Kusakari. On last September 06th, I saw the American remake of "Shall We Dansu?" for the first time, and I found it a delightful entertainment. But now I can say that it is another unnecessary remake, and I recommend this original film instead. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Dança Comigo?" ("Dance With Me?")
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An amateur dancer learns about heart
pontifikator6 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the American cut of this Japanese movie, which has several scenes and characters removed. At that, "Shall We Dance" is a charming movie with tons of heart.

Written and directed by Masayuki Suo, "Shall We Dance" has something "Strictly Ballroom" lacks: depth and feeling. I'll compare Baz Luhrman with Oscar Wilde: all flash and showy surface, with nothing underneath. Masayuki Suo has created a film with characters who move us. Koji Yakusho, Naoto Takenaka, Naoto Takenaka, and the other actors are excellent in their roles.

The gist of the plot is that Mr. Sugiyama (Yakusho) is an overworked salaryman who spies a lovely younger woman in the window of a dance studio on his way home from work on the train. He has a wife, a daughter, and a mortgage, and no dreams. He takes up ballroom dancing to meet the younger woman, whose father owns the studio and who gives lessons. Dancing, of course, becomes a metaphor, and his fellow students grow from awkward, nameless bumblers to awkward, feeling humans as he (and we) learn to know them. The changes in the minor characters are more dramatic than the subtle growth of Mr. Sugiyama.

In "Shall We Dance," learning dance means proceeding from our awkward, graceless first steps to feeling the music and trusting your partner. Feeling emotion and trusting your partner and yourself go hand in hand with learning the dance. The process gets a little heavy-handed as characters spell it out for us, but it didn't detract from the emotional investment we make in watching the characters grow.

The movie is often funny without being a comedy, and it's not a romance with budding young love -- Mr. Sugiyama is in his forties, and his dream girl has no romantic interest in him. But they develop a relationship on another, still meaningful level.

"Shall We Dance" is also the title of a 1937 Astaire-Rogers film, and the Japanese version was remade under the same title in 2004, starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. I have not seen either of these two movies.
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Splendid Cast, music and Storyline!
quixux28 November 2005
Everyone in the cast, from Sugiyama to Aoki and Toyoko is someone we know in everyday life. They were so natural, and Sugiyama's transformation is incredibly believable. The score is so moving, it brought me to tears. The choreography was beautiful without seeming athletic. Mai's graceful dancing and charm gave me goosebumps. Tamako is such a wonderfully delightful character. You can almost see the charmed schoolgirl in her face as she reminisces about seeing "The King and I". Aoki's character is both hilarious and pitiful. Masako is so overwhelmingly natural as the bewildered wife, you almost want to hug her to reassure her that everything will be all right.

This film is truly a keeper.
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Wonderful movie.
chrisleo71116 October 2005
I always look forward to this movie when its on TV. Have to get the DVD I guess. The range of different types of people is great. It says to me that anyone can be a dancer if they try hard enough. My favorite character must be Mr.Aoki. He is so quirky but so full of emotions. It is a perfect movie with wonderful dancing. Unfortunately we never get the chance to see them go to Blackpool. Would make for the perfect sequel if they had. But I guess it leaves it to your imagination to what could of happened.

A very simple and innocent story. He stays loyal to his wife and daughter.

I haven't seen the Hollywood remake. Not sure if I want to. I don't really enjoy Jennifer Lopez. I think Richard Gere more matches the original than Lopez. I have a feeling that the remake is not as simple and innocent.
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