Gere and Lopez move nimbly through `Dance'

Actor isn't all right for role, but he's not all wrong


October 15, 2004|By Jay Boyar | Jay Boyar,ORLANDO SENTINEL

BUT — John Clark ought to be a happy man. He has a successful law practice in Chicago. He's married to a beautiful woman who loves him. And they have two terrific kids.

But - as we learn in Shall We Dance? - the spark has gone out of his life.

If you're thinking midlife crisis, that doesn't quite do it. John (Richard Gere) isn't in crisis so much as he's in stasis. Let's call it a midlife rut.

Shall We Dance? - the brassy new Hollywood remake of the delicate 1996 Japanese film - is about how this man rediscovers the romance within himself by enrolling in a ballroom-dancing class.

His rebirth begins inauspiciously. One day, on his way home from the office, he looks up from his commuter train to see a dance studio and, in the window, an exotic woman (Jennifer Lopez).

On impulse, he goes inside for a peek. Soon, he's signed up for a series of lessons. He doesn't tell anyone about the dance classes - certainly not Beverly (Susan Sarandon), his wife.

For John, the studio becomes a private world in which he can explore a lost part of himself - the freest part. And when he's at work, sitting at his desk, his feet practice their steps as if they had minds of their own.

In some ways, Gere is wrong for the Everyman role, which seems written for a sad-sack type like, say, Matthew Broderick. If there's one thing Gere's not, it's an average Joe.

Still, the funny thing is he's really not bad. The film may be a star vehicle, but Gere's work here is almost humble.

As Paulina, the beauty with the mysterious past, Lopez tends to overdo the tragic-lady bit. Still, Lopez is an often-underrated actress. There is a genuine dignity to her performance.

In the thankless role of Beverly, Sarandon manages to look hurt, but never pathetic: This gal is nobody's fool.

Surprisingly, this new Shall We Dance? does a better job at showcasing the dancing than the Japanese version did - although even more dancing would have been welcome.

If there's a message, it's that you don't have to be unhappy to feel unfulfilled. Dance lessons might be one way to help. Or you could go to this movie.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Shall We Dance?

Starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon

Directed by Peter Chelsom

Rated PG-13 (sexual references, language)

Released by Miramax

Time 105 minutes Sun Score **1/2

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