Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
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|Producer:||Diane Nabatoff, Christopher Godsick, Michelle Grace|
|Distributor:||New Line Cinema|
One thing David loved to do was to dance before the Lord. He did this in all reverence, humility, respect and dignity. Something that today’s generation, adult and child alike, should be perceptive enough to imitate.
“Take The Lead” is a film, although easy to second guess as it progresses, which in essence takes the values of teamwork, respect, and dignity and puts a young, modern face on them. Needing to look past the predictable plot, viewers should grab hold of the core story, and that is: no matter where you come from, there are no rejects, only choices to be made, and these choices are up to you.
So, what do King David and Pierre DuLaine have in common? Each possess a love for people. A vision to help them succeed through hard work, trust, respect, reverence and honor. A sincere regard for human weaknesses, and a devotion to guide people to help them reach their full potential. Oh yes, and a love of the dance.
Loosely based on a true story, Antonio Banderas plays Pierre DuLaine, a Spanish-French New York City dance instructor who gets the idea of teaching the aesthetics of ballroom dancing to a group of problem detention students in a tough inner-city Manhattan high school. Mr. DuLaine serves up tough love to these at-risk kids in hopes that as his old-world elegance teaches them not only the tango and the fox-trot, but that they’ll simultaneously learn discipline, honor and self-respect. He dresses well, carries himself with grace and dignity, treats everyone politely and steadfastly expects them to return his courtesy.
By being so resplendent in his bearing and effect, he generates camaraderie and respect: The kids follow him because they would like to be that cool, and wind up learning to, yes, even genuinely wanting to, improve and reform.
This group of tough inner city kids in detention who will be forced to partner up and boogie down, are the star-crossed Rock (Rob Brown from “Finding Forrester”) and LaRhette (Yaya DaCosta), each of whom blames the other for their older brothers’ violent, untimely gang-related deaths. Sasha (Jenna Dewan), who’s the romantic target of both Ramos (Dante Basco) and Danjou (Elijah Kelley) on and off the dance floor. There is also the friendship between the very large, awkward Monster (gentle-giant Brandon T. Andrews) and the very petite, self-proclaimed ugly duckling Caitlin (Lauren Collins), who practices for her upcoming cotillion with Pierre’s inner city detention group because she feels more comfortable with them than she does with those on the Upper East Side. I particularly liked the line: “Do you like to dance? Yes… Then you were made to dance.” which Caitlin shares with the large and shy “Monster.” It underscores that there are no losers and that we can accomplish anything our hearts are in tune with. The Lord has given each one of us a gift. We should not squander it.
Of course, everyone thinks Mr. DuLaine is crazy—including the instructors at his high class dance studio and the high school principal, Mrs. James (Alfre Woodard, who nails her no-nonsense roll). But he persists, gradually wins the kids’ trust, and hooks them on the magic of the tango and waltz. Pierre convinces these kids, their teachers, and perhaps even us that the dignity and chivalry of ballroom dancing can co-exist in the same world with the meanness and misogyny of hip-hop. Banderas attacks this role with such conviction that he elevates “Take The Lead” to exist slightly above the ordinary dance movie.
The magic of the dance and the life lessons learned by these inner city students both profoundly affects their lives and inspire them to enter a prestigious city ballroom competition.
This, of course, is where the tension rises. They must prove to themselves that they have the courage to break out of their stereotypical gangbanger roles and learn to co-exist in a world they have never ventured into. It takes trust, courage, determination and respect to accomplish, and each knows they must depend on the other, rather than fight each other off.
The end is predictable with the finale ballroom dance competition, but not everyone wins on the dance floor alone. The winning goes much deeper than just learning the dance moves and competing. It is a motivation of the heart and learning to trust through the lesson of dance.
“Take The Lead” is a borderline PG-13 because of strong language and sexual references. There is no nudity or sex, but a hot three-way tango they perform at the climactic citywide dance competition and some suggestive hip-hop dance moves may be inappropriate for younger viewers. Be prepared for a of couple violent acts that may be disturbing to younger kids. There is a scene where a car is bludgeoned, a fight scene using guns, and a scene where a teen girl is nearly raped—had her mother not shown up in time. All realistically portrayed.
There are references to alcohol and drugs, a father character abuses alcohol, drug dealing, references to murders, a father hits his son, and some sad and scary moments.
All in all, what is disturbing, may also be a road to family discussions about how we all can be sensitive to the problems of others and do something about it in a Christ-like manner. Included are many real life situations that we all encounter like gradual building of trust, setbacks, growth experiences, the true role of man and woman, tenderness and ways to help those around us, even when it seems they don’t want our help.
Here are some quotes worth remembering from “Take The Lead”:
“The people that get what they want in life are the people who show up to get it.”
“Sometimes the way to conquer an enemy is to get right up in his face.”
“Belief in yourself is the strongest secret weapon.”
“Assigning blame is okay for the moment, but it doesn’t make the problems go away.”
‘Trust must be earned.’
We are not handed a good life on a silver platter. God is there, but He wants us to choose Him. He encourages us through our trials to lean on Him. We must show up.
Elijah never had a doubt that God was with him. Belief: His strongest secret weapon. When he faced the pagan temple priests, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that his sacrifice would be consumed in fire. He was so confident that he even put water on the alter first. In fact, he didn’t just sprinkle it—he drowned it with water!
I went in to see this movie to be entertained by the dancing, but came away with something much more profound. It brought me back, with jarring reality, to remembrance that there are people out there whose lives do not revolve around what outfit to wear or what car to buy. They fight to stay alive. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet. Just getting to school is a hazard in itself. Many who need to hear a kind word, to feel the love of Christ. Kids who know nothing more than hunger, anger and despair. We need more people like Pierre DuLaine, who will go into the trenches and help, even if it is a struggle; the rewards are so precious.
Mr. DuLaine was not shown to be a man of God nor did the film ever show anyone turning to Christ for the answers, but we as Christian viewers can take the message within “Take The Lead” to the next level. We can make the choices, as he has encouraged thousands of students to do through his after school dance programs, the choices to help those needing to hear the Good News.
Let’s all pray we will have the courage, dignity, respect and faith to get people fired up for God. Making the winner’s choice to take the lead not just in the competition of life, but for the cause and compassion of Christ.
A final note: If you enjoyed this movie loosely based on real life events, you may also want to check out the documentary about Pierre DuLaine. Rent “Mad Hot Ballroom” and feel yourself becoming genuinely moved by the real thing.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.