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Save The Last Dance  

Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles)
Derek Reynolds (Sean Patrick Thomas)
Roy (Terry Kinney)
Chenille Reynolds (Kerry Washington)
Malakai (Fredo Starr)
Directed by Thomas Carter Written by Duane Alder and Cheryl Edwards
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language and brief drug references Running Time: 113 minutes Distributed by Paramount

Save the Last Dance
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Save the Last Dance is a different type of dance-romance film that ends up flaky at times. Sara (Stiles) is a simple white teenager that is determined to get into Julliard (top notch ballet school). Her dreams are cut short when her mother fatally dies in a car accident. Sara quits ballet and moves to south side Chicago with her once-caring father (Kinney). Sara has to go to an all black high school and there is where she meets the interesting Derek (Thomas). Derek helps introduce Sara to a hip-hop club called Stepps, to where he is a natural dance floor talent. The two begin practicing dance together, with Derek showing Sara hip hop moves. Problems arise as the two start a close relationship with one another. There is the pressure of everyone criticizing Derek and Sara because of each’s skin color. The two come to a crossroad of making decisions to change their lives and restore their futures.

Save the Last Dance is an okay film that I thought could have been reorganized and cut to make it a lot better. However, I believe that all teenagers should see this film and that the majority of them will like it.

Duane Alder and Cheryl Edwards’ script for the film has two good lead characters, but fizzles in everything outside of their relationship. The interracial relationship stands true to the film’s theory of not just judging people because of their skin color, but by their love and character. I really liked this concept in the film, but the surroundings around it I found very stereotypical. Examples are the supporting characters, like Malakai (Starr), who is Derek’s gangster friend. This character is hotheaded, egotistical, and violent, he even beats up girls. Malakai is a big fat stereotype for a gangster with no depth whatsoever. There are way too many complications for the characters to handle, and even some of them don’t get resolved. An example is when Sara gets into a fight with another girl, and the girl says to Sara, “It isn’t over.” The girl never resurfaces in the film after this line. Overall, I liked the ideas, the romance and dance metaphor, but I didn’t like some of the characters or their relations.

Thomas Carter directs the film typically for the most part, but not as brightly as most teenage movies. Most of all the recent teenage films like She’s All That, Boys and Girls, etc. have been shot in very bright colors with a lot of lighting filling the actors’ faces. There are some dark moments in this film and Carter doesn’t let the moments slide into the genre cliché of happiness. He uses standard lighting and has a lot of the scenes surround by nighttime in Southside Chicago. Carter captures the hip-hop atmosphere of the club Stepps and the seriously toned ballet auditions. The director doesn’t let the film drag too much and it does end unpredictable, even though the last few scenes are cheesy.

Julia Stiles is a really good actress that should be a star in a couple of years. She adds another respectable performance to her resume as the young dancer Sara. Sean Patrick Thomas turns in a good performance that is also balanced as Derek. Terry Kinney does what he can with his small role as Sara’s father. Outside of these performances resides a very overdone and typical performance by Fredo Starr as Malaki. I really didn’t like Starr’s character in this film and the “to over the top” performance by the actor only brings the character down more.

Save the Last Dance will be a crowd pleaser for young teenagers. It is one of the better teenage films to come out in the last few-trend years of the genre. However, I recommend another dance-romance film called Center Stage slightly over this one.

Report Card Grade: C

Beastman’s Movie Reviews
Copyright, 2001 Joseph C. Tucker

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