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Save The Last Dance (2001)
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Review Date: January 06, 2001
Director: Thomas Carter
Writer: Duane Adler and Cheryl Edwards
Producers: Robert W. Cort, David Madden
Actors:
Julia Stiles as Sara Johnson
Sean Patrick Thomas as Derek Reynolds
Kerry Washington as Chenille Reynolds
Plot:
A young white girl who just lost her mom to a car accident, must move in with her dad in a predominantly black neighborhood. Having given up on her ballet, the girl quickly integrates herself into the local hip-hop dance scene, with the help of a young black boy whom she befriends at school. It isn't long before the two get closer, other people get really uncomfortable with their affection and the girl opens up to said dude.
Critique:
Surprisingly good. Other than the sucky title and the generally predictable story line, this movie was actually interesting to check into, with well-developed characters (for the most part), some fun hip-hopping, a cute relationship and some tender moments? Yup, God knows I rarely shed a tear at any flick, but when the dead-beat dad fixed up that room all right, I almost broke the dam (when you see the movie, you'll understand). Then again, who knows, maybe I was just a little "emotional" that day. But kudos to this film's makers for avoiding the general stereotypical ventures of other films based in the ghetto, and showing us that not everybody is addicted to crack or busting caps up people's asses. Sure, problems like teenage pregnancies, deadbeat fathers and gangs exist, but this film actually handles them with a little humanity, and allows you to see some of the finer details beneath the typical exterior. A great example is the deadbeat pop who is generally portrayed as a straight-out A-hole in most other films. Well, in this movie, and much like in real life, not everything is so cut and dry. As it was, this film actually convinced me of most of these characters' humanity, and that's what made this film work for me.

Sure, there is this whole "I gotta make it as a dancer" undertone going on, which will likely keep the teens interested throughout, but believe it or not, this film is much deeper than that. In fact, I think the trailer is selling it too much like a simple hip-hop teen flick, when really it's actually quite touching. And yes, the whole black/white relationship thang is also handled pretty well, in my opinion. We see both sides of the issue. Granted, a couple of the characters were a little stereotypical, like the super-bitch at school and the gang-banger who can never seem to get out of trouble, but then again, there are actually people like that in the world, too. The film also might've wanted to cut out one of its few "side stories", like the whole "sister having the child without the boyfriend sticking around" thing, but that would only have been to trim some of the picture's runtime, which went way past the general benchmark for these types of movies. In the end, the better part of the film's story and personalities captured enough of my attention for me to care about the movie as a whole, and to wish most of the characters nothing but goodness in the end. Mind you, I could see how some people might dismiss it based on its predictability alone, but for me, the overall design clicked.

Note to Julia Stiles: Me thinks it's time for you to move beyond the teen flicks and try to grab hold of some juicier parts. Don't follow the Freddie Prinze Jr. route, girl!
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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