"Latin and Lively"
DANCE WITH ME features terrific as well as average dancing, great music, a new star, and a breezy, shallow story adding up to pure candy, all sweetness and no substance. Though containing some sensuality and some obscenities, this romantic movie has some moral elements without sex or nudity.
Less zany than STRICTLY BALLROOM and more light-hearted than SHALL WE DANCE, DANCE WITH ME features terrific as well as average dancing, great music, a new star, and a breezy, shallow story. It all adds up to pure candy, all sweetness and no substance.
The story begins with Puerto Rican actor Chayanne playing an orphaned young Cuban named Rafael Infante, preparing to leave his beloved homeland for a new start in the U.S. of A. Grizzled, aging dance instructor John Burnett (Kris Kristofferson) knew Rafael’s mother long ago and has now invited Rafael to live and work at his dance studio in Houston, Texas, the Excelsior. Though Rafael signed on only as a handyman, it isn’t long before he has endeared himself to the studio’s patrons and reinvigorated their aspirations.
One studio regular isn’t won over so easily by Rafael’s charm, good looks and passionate, if not skilled, dancing style. Ruby (Vanessa L. Williams) is a beautiful but emotionally cool dance instructor determined to recapture her standing as a top Latin ballroom competitor. Rafael learns that Ruby is a single mom, the result of an affair with her former dance partner. Rafael invites Ruby to a Latin dance club. He tries to teach her to loosen up her disciplined method and feel the music, but Ruby is afraid to compromise her proven techniques.
Eventually, Rafael learns who his real father is, and Ruby heads for the World Open Dance Championship in Las Vegas to compete with her former partner, the father of her son. Rafael follows her and dances a less challenging routine in a lower class of competitors. There, he also watches Ruby compete for the title and to see if she will stay at the studio or move away for fame and glory.
DANCE WITH ME has great music, great photography and some genuinely entertaining dance routines. Most of the patrons at the Excelsior are amateurs, so their dancing style is merely passable. Chayanne definitely shows style, but not world class ability. His charm may open doors for him to step into more leading Latin roles, currently filled by Antonio Banderas. Vanessa Williams certainly proves her sure-footed ability, but the camera forgives her weaknesses and extenuates her strengths to imitate world class ability, when she merely exhibits energy.
DANCE WITH ME has one of the most family accessible, jubilant and exciting music soundtracks in some time. Primarily Latin and Afro-Cuban music, it features performances by the Gypsy Kings, The Pasa Doble, Ana Gabriel, Gloria Estefan, and more. In a theater with THX sound, the music rocks the house with heavy percussion and fiery brass. Most of the lyrics are in Spanish, and most focus on romance and love, unlike a lot of rap which focuses on violence and sex, or some alternative music which often explores many dark themes.
With a simple plot, DANCE WITH ME has no aspirations other than to entertain. Except for some obscenities, only one of which is strong, and two profanities, this movie is very tame. Dancing by nature involves touching and moving, and Latin dancing can seem very sensual, but the movie demonstrates sensuality without sexuality. There is one scene of heavy kissing, but nothing more is implied or depicted. In fact, the two leads ultimately desire to build a marriage and a family, rather than a mere love affair.
Apart from THE TRUMAN SHOW, DANCE WITH ME seems to be one of the few PG movies for adults this summer. Though not carrying any strong moral message or even having an intriguing plot, it is an accessible and enjoyable, though not fulfilling, pleasant diversion at the theater.
(Ro, B, LL, S, N, A, D, M) Romantic worldview with some moral elements such as recognition of God; 11 obscenities (mostly mild) & 2 profanities; flirtation, some mild sexual innuendo, heavy kissing, & sexual attraction; upper male nudity & skimpy costumes; alcohol use; smoking; and, some dishonesty.