'Take the Lead'

Antonio Banderas plays Pierre Dulaine, founder of the ballroom dancing program for New York City schools made famous by the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom. But screenwriter Dianne Houston and director Liz Friedlander have made a very canny change from the true story, substituting the elementary school kids with high schoolers. Watching presexual kids engaged in ballroom dancing felt at best like an odd dress-up game and at worst like a creepy mimicry of adult courtship by participants too young to understand its significance. With good-looking teens, it's a whole new ballroom. The downside is that we never learn quite what motivates Dulaine to just show up at the high school one day and volunteer to teach dance. It's no surprise to anyone who's seen his Robert Rodriguez films that Banderas works well with kids. But it may surprise those who saw Evita that he can make a music-and-dance movie that doesn't suck.

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