TAKE THE LEAD (Liz Friedlander). 108 minutes. Opens Friday (April 7). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
You'll want to see Take The Lead if you thought the one thing missing from last year's acclaimed doc Mad Hot Ballroom was sex. Inspired by the same story, it stars Antonio Banderas as Pierre Dulaine, a former professional dancer who uses ballroom dance to teach inner-city kids discipline and respect.
The story's been moved from elementary to high school, where shooting deaths are common. The outsider-inspires-kids-with-potential film is so common now, it ought to be a category at the Oscars, and this one's got many standard features: the good kid who always finds trouble ( Rob Brown ), the kid whose mother turns tricks ( Yaya DaCosta ) and hoary chestnuts from Dulaine like "You need to dance for yourself, not for anyone else."
But the movie works if you treat it like an old Hollywood musical: the story's just something to hang the dancing on. The students meld traditional waltzes and tangos with their own style, and the result is, well, hot. The true measure of any dance film is whether it makes you want to dance yourself. If the couple trying out their own little foxtrot next to me as I waited for the streetcar are any indication, Take The Lead is a success.