Peter Chelsom (the director of the recently reviewed Serendipity) sticks with what he knows best for the quasi-remake of the Japanese romantic comedy Shall we dansu, boasting a rather updated script with an impressive, albeit predictably suited, cast.
Shall We Dance could be considered a film solely based around dance. Sadly, that demeans the entire film. Proved by teen fares such as Step Up, Make It Happen and the most recent Streetdance (upping the ante in three dimensions), it's hard to involve a credible, fully-fleshed out storyline whilst mesmerizing the audience with the hopefully invigorating choreographed dance sequences. Luckily, Shall We Dance falls with the most memorable, creating a story both fused with heart and enough sensuality to truly make the classier dancing spring to life.
John Clark (Richard Gere) is a happily married but overworked Estate lawyer. He wishes to liven up his life, but how? Dance instructor Paulina catches his eye in the window of a quaint dance studio, therefore John takes the opportunity to try something new. This, however, leaves his wife (Susan Sarandon) paranoid, sending her on a quest to unveil her husband's dirty secret.
We follow Gere's character as he potentially attempts to discover more of himself - despite being happy with his wife and children - which allows for a certain relatability about himself which also transcends off-screen easily. Becoming tedious with everyday life is a natural occurence, and Gere acts as the film's way of maintaining the underlying message of personal discomfort and the lack of self-satisfaction. He performs, once again, with his acclaimed charm and wit but hardly strays from the characters he has made a career out of (Pretty Woman and An Officer and a Gentlemen, specifically). It's an unarguable fact that he's a successful male lead.
The film itself works wonders due to the pitch-perfect cast, with co-stars equalling how enjoyable it's main stars are. Sarandon's concerned wife provides the heart which, in the end, is just as relatable, and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci plays John's work colleague and fellow fan of dance whose faux life is drawn astray once John shows him it's okay to be yourself. However, it's Jennifer Lopez who shines throughout. Known for her rather monotonous choice of films (bar the brilliantly entertaining creature-feature Anaconda), Lopez has been heavily criticised throughout her career. While her character of Paulina sticks with her usual routine, she couldn't be more fitting for the role.
Amidst the characters' storylines come the wonderfully varied dances. Captivating and unique in style, the enthusiastically up-tempo to the downright erotic are consistently dazzling, providing an escapism from the rest of the feature which, at times, is weighed down by the melodramatic tone.
Still, Shall We Dance is a perfectly adequate romance. Gere and Sarandon share few scenes, but the chemistry is clearly visible. A scene, especially, featuring an undoubtable homage to the significant scene in An Officer and a Gentleman. A cutesy, often moving, romance which plows through the undeniably predictable story with zealous, likable characters.