If someone asked me what's the most unnecessary remake in the past few years, high on the list would have to be "Shall We Dance?", a star-driven project that's a remake of a sweet, delicate and finely acted Japanese film. Done by the pairing of screenwriter Audrey Welles (The Truth About Cats and Dogs) and director Peter Chelsom (Serendipity), the picture is pretty underwhelming - a movie that's a little sappy, where the original was funny and moving without having to force it.
This time around, Richard Gere stars as John Clark, a lawyer who lives in Chicago and has a very nice home, nice enough kids and a nice wife (Susan Sarandon). While traveling on the El train around the city, he spots Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) looking out of the dance studio she works in. After getting enough courage together, he comes in to visit and eventually, signs up for lessons, getting stuck with Miss Mitzy (Anita Gillette). However, it's not long before he starts to get closer to Paulina.
The picture starts off simply enough and well enough, with some fairly lovely cinematography and performances that appear satisfactory. It all then goes south. Real quick. The film's comedy is too broad and the characters are too stereotypical. There's the angry, irritable plus-sized woman (Lisa Ann Walter) who makes unpleasant comments about everyone else, the guy who wants to dance because he thinks he'll meet chicks. The dialogue and situations often seem artificial - the son of Gere's character wants to go to a club to meet a girl and he invites his dad to go along. Who invites their parent to go to a club to meet up with someone and watch Ja Rule perform?
The performances don't help matters much, either. Gere isn't exactly made for this sort of comedy, and he seems a little embarassed at times. Lopez is mis-cast (and shares absolutely zip chemistry with Gere), Walter takes her character too far and Sarandon is wasted in a thankless part. Stanley Tucci, who plays Gere's co-worker, also seems to share the star's embarassment. The only positive elements I noticed in the film seemed to be from look - John De Borman's cinematography, for example, is gorgeous.
I greatly enjoyed the original "Shall We Dance?" It's a sweet, uplifting movie with great performances, dialogue and characters. This remake is a dismaying attempt to generate cash from star power, but the film forgets about the charm.
VIDEO: "Shall We Dance" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is mostly excellent, showing off De Borman's lovely cinematography quite well. Sharpness and detail are mostly first-rate, as the image often remained crisp and well-defined. Small object detail was even fine at times, and the picture showed some nice depth.
There weren't too many concerns present in the picture, either: a little bit of pixelation and a trace or two of edge enhancement were seen, but that's about it. The print looked to be in superb condition, with no specks, marks or other wear. Colors appeared warm and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Shall We Dance?" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a mostly front-heavy soundtrack, which offers a nice spread across the front soundstage. Surrounds really aren't called to duty very much, although they are employed for some reinforcement of the music in a couple of club scenes. Audio quality was fine, as the music sounded crisp and clear, while dialogue was natural and easily understood.
EXTRAS: An audio commentary with director Peter Chelsom, deleted scenes w/optional commentary, "Beginner's Ballroom", "The Music of Shall We Dance" and finally, "Sway" - the music video by the Pussycat Dolls.
Final Thoughts: A totally disappointing remake, "Shall We Dance?" gets the star power together, but forgets about bringing just about everything else to the table. There's a few nice moments, but the majority of the film is irritating, unfunny and just a bit sappy. Definitely get the Japanese original instead. As for this DVD, it offers nice audio/video quality a fairly decent collection of supplements.
The Film * 1/2