By Owen Gleiberman
Updated April 05, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Take the Lead: Kerry Hayes

In Take the Lead, an inner-city-delinquents-learn-how-to-tango rouser (it’s Dangerous Minds trying to be Mad Hot Ballroom), the most entertaining sequence — I dare say the only entertaining sequence — is a dance montage that’s the purest kitsch. At a public high school in Manhattan, a bunch of detention kids get taken under the wing of Antonio Banderas, who turns them on to the glories of ballroom dancing. They are, of course, hostile at first, until they begin to ”combine” Banderas’ classical approach with their own hip-hop moves. The highbrow/street connection derives from the audition sequence in Flashdance, where Jennifer Beals showed those ballet stuffed shirts how to break-dance, but the bad joke in Take the Lead is that no one connected with the film apparently figured out how the ballroom/rap fusion should look. In the montage, we see the kids do a bit of vintage swing, then pure hip-hop, then back to swing. The only real fusion on display is the filmmakers’ naked desperation to fuse demographics.

Antonio Banderas is a charming and talented man, but in Take the Lead he lays on the old-world panache so thick — the accent, the flowery courtliness, the romance of romance — that he comes off like Dracula’s metrosexual cousin. The kids are the usual walking one-note cartoons (goofy white dreadlocked kid, humongous black shy guy, chicks so ”sassy” they should form a band called the You Go Girls), and the movie makes them into champion dancers without ever showing you how they got good at it. ”Faith” has rarely taken anyone so far, so blandly.

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