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"Save the Last Dance"

Directed by Thomas Carter.
Written by Duane Adler and Cheryl Edwards.
Starring Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas. 
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  1/11/01 


Did you ever see a movie in theaters a few years ago called "Money Talks"?  It had Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen and a whole bunch of cash; in retrospect, it was probably an average movie at best.  The script plays the race card too many times and it features Sheen trying to act.

...but, did you see it AT a theater?  And, was your audience absolutely ghetto?

Because, if the audience was straight ghetto, this may have been the funniest thing you ever saw in a theater.  When I saw it at one of the most ghetto theaters in Miami back in '97, the crowd literally made that movie hilarious.  Why?  Because we black people are more likely to yell at the movie screen when we are surrounded by lots of other black people.  Hey, that may sound racist, but to know me is to know that I am one racist mamma-jamma, and a black audience can make certain movies that much funnier.

You just haven't lived till you see black people *talking* to the movie screen.  Example:  any horror movie ever.  White girl walks into a dark room, scary music starts to build up.  If you have ever seen a horror movie before, you know this girl has got about four seconds to live, right?  Well, in a majority-black theater, this is what you hear:

  • "Bitch, don't walk in there!"

  • "That bitch is gonna die!!"

  • "Don't be stupid, girl!!"

And, of course, the girl dies and everyone in the house whoops it up as she gets slashed repeatedly.  If you think this is a stereotype, then go see as many movies as I have and tell me so.  Because, I can tell you, the scene explained above is as reliable as the sun rising in the morning.

I tell you this because tonight, I went to see the teen dance comedy-drama "Save the Last Dance" for free, courtesy of one Tricia "Hot" Ocampo.  I was really looking forward to ripping the hell out of this movie, because the previews looked awful and hey, it was produced by MTV.  Even long-time Bellview member Katy "Cheap Rent" Berleth told me that I "had" to see this film, just so I could rate another Hard Vice-quality film.

Katy, I am sad to report that this movie was actually pretty good.  I didn't want to admit it, but it's true.  High school ballet dancer Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles) loses her mother in a car accident and moves to Chicago where she is enrolled by her estranged father in a new high school.  While at the all-black, all-attitude school, she meets an intellectual rival in Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) and they quickly find a bond:  dancing.  Derek gets Sara into hip-hop dancing *and* he helps her re-discover her ballet roots by getting her to compete for a spot in the Julliard School of Dance...all while the two of them get to know each other a little better.

The plot is by-the-numbers but the issues that this movie covers are not; I was surprised that this movie was anything more than "Flashdance" and actually hit on a couple of real social agenda items.  It is surprisingly violent given the genre; I don't mind this but I got the feeling that many of the moms in the audience did mind.  If you like dancing, there is plenty of it here, and the soundtrack for this movie just barely outdistances the biggest soundtrack of recent memory, "Any Given Sunday", in terms of the number of hip-hop songs you get in the 100-minute movie.  I thought that Stiles was a little wooden emotionally at times (but, this works in displaying her "whiteness" early in the movie), while Thomas was very, very good; the second half of the movie is all them, so you had better fall in with them or you will find yourself twitching to get out!

Overall, an entertaining movie experience...until you add the crowd.  If you plan to see this movie (I assume that many of you will see this whether I liked it or not), I hope you get an audience like the one I got tonight; wow!  The people in my audience were talking to the characters onscreen during this movie non-stop.  Not only that, but all of the club scenes are 30-40% funnier if you have a majority-ghetto audience in your theater.  From the music to the fights to the dance moves to the hoochies, there is a veritable potpourri of things to make fun of and a lively audience will catch them all.  The theater experience here is highly recommended!!

Rating:  $8.25 Show (with ghetto crowd)
Rating:  Matinee (with standard-issue, blasť white crowd)


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09