Save The Last Dance

on January 12, 2001 by Tim Cogshell
   "Save the Last Dance" might be described as "Dangerous Minds" meets "Jungle Fever," with just of touch of "West Side Story." After the tragic loss of her mother, aspiring ballerina Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles of "10 Things I Hate About You") finds herself catapulted from her white suburban existence to the south side of Chicago to live with her estranged father in a two-room apartment in a predominantly black urban neighborhood. In addition to dealing with her mother's death and living with a father she doesn't know, Sara must also negotiate her new social situation. She finds herself in an inner-city school where she is considered not only the new girl but the new white girl. Still, she makes fast friends with the motherly Chenille (Kerry Washington), who happens to be the sister of Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas of "Cruel Intentions"), a bright young man with a sharp mind that would be a terrible thing to waste. Derek is on the fast-track to Georgetown, if his association with best friend and bad influence Malakai (Fredro Starr of TV's "Moesha") doesn't derail him first.

   The boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back storyline plays out against a dance-themed backdrop, with the added element of the interracial dynamic. Will they succumb to the pressures of their peers, or will love conquer all? Whatever. What the filmmakers failed to realize is that a lot has changed in racial dynamics in recent years. The crossover of music, hip-hop and rock has blurred the lines of culture and class among youth. White kids and black kids dating and dancing to the fresh beats are hardly considered with a glance nowadays. There is the question of whether or not Sara can rise above her grief to dance again. Again, whatever. As it stands, the burgeoning romance of Sara and Derek is the only real drama in the movie, and director Thomas Carter ("Swing Kids") seems loath to play that out with the physical and emotional passion it requires. The result is a tepid movie with a few decent dance sequences and a lot of frustrating sexual tension. Starring Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Terry Kinney, Fredro Starr, Vince Green, Bianca Lawson and Kerry Washington. Directed by Thomas Carter. Written by Duane Adler. Produced by Marie Cantin, Robert W. Cort and David Madden. A Paramount release. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and brief drug references. Running time: 113 min

Tags: Starring Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Terry Kinney, Fredro Starr, Vince Green, Bianca Lawson, Kerry Washington, Directed by Thomas Carter, Written by Duane Adler, Produced by Marie Cantin, Robert W. Cort, David Madden, Paramount, relationships, Chicago, love, dancing, ballett, death

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