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Review: Hot numbers can't carry limp 'Dance With Me' plot

Web posted on: Thursday, August 20, 1998 9:53:55 AM

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- There is plenty of sexual sizzle in "Dance With Me," and at times the dancing is breathtaking. But this film's storyline couldn't be more pedestrian if it tried.

The bare-bones plot of "Dance With Me" casts Chayanne as Rafael Infante, a young Cuban man whose mother has died. Searching for the only family he has, he heads for the United States in search of his American father, a man who doesn't know he has a son.

The father, John Burnett, is played by the hideously miscast Kris Kristofferson as a dance instructor. He's played a Texan -- no problem; a cowboy, fine; sailor, tinker, tailor, whatever. But professional dancer? Who are they kidding? I'm sorry, I was embarrassed for him.

Rafael finds a job as a handyman in Burnett's dance studio in Houston, Texas, and slowly gets to know the man who still has no idea that Rafael is his son.

Love and salsa conquer all

Along the way he also falls in love with Ruby, a beautiful woman played by Williams, who works as a dance instructor at his father's studio. Ruby is a former dance champion who is trying to revive her faded career. Unfortunately, she's been burned by love before, is raising a young son alone, and can't be bothered with an emotional relationship.

Of course, love and salsa conquer all. The film climaxes with all the characters involved attending an international dance competition in Las Vegas.

Vanessa Williams is beautiful and moves well to a hot salsa beat in this film. Costar Chayanne, a Latin American heartthrob and singing sensation, makes his international film debut here as a young man thrown into the competitive world of professional dance.

The only person who worked harder than the choreographer on this film was Williams' hair dresser.

But "Dance With Me" could also have been called "Do My Hair." While Williams' dancing is flawless, her hair drove me nuts. Every single scene features a new hairstyle, a different length and at times a different color. Sometimes her hair changed in the same scene.

The only person who worked harder than the choreographer on this film was Williams' hair dresser. In the past Barbra Streisand has elevated manicured fingernails to a high art form, and now Williams is trying to do the same for hair extensions.


"Dance With Me"

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Listen, I know that over-the-top hair styles and costumes are all part of the world of international dance competition, but give me a break. Vanessa is upstaged by her own hair and that is not a good thing.

That said, Chayanne and Williams are well matched, despite an age difference that is never addressed, and when they both smile at the same time the screen almost melts. After all, they were both named in People magazine as among the 50 most beautiful people in the world.

The music is also excellent and the dozens of dancers cast as extras, and in some minor roles, are almost worth the price of admission.

Story the primary flaw

"Dance With Me" is directed by Randa Haines, who led Marlee Matlin to an Oscar-winning performance in her film debut in "Children Of A Lesser God." Haines handles the dance scenes well and brings the audience right into the action.

The miscast Kristofferson and Williams' kaleidoscope of hairstyles notwithstanding, the main flaw in this movie is the uninvolving story. First-time screenwriter Daryl Matthews just doesn't cut it. He is, in fact, a former professional salsa dancer and captures the atmosphere of that world, but the storyline between the father and son is very weak and ultimately unbelievable.

He fares better with the love story, but it, too, often falls into the realm of cliché. Basically every time the actors stopped dancing, the movie stopped dead. Overall the score for this movie is dance 10, story 3.

"Dance With Me" opens nationwide on August 21 and is rated PG with a running time of 126 minutes.

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