Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 2004. Lions Gate Films, Miramax, Lawrence Bender Productions, A Band Apart, Havana Nights LLC, Artisan Entertainment. Story by Kate Gunzinger, Peter Sagal, Screenplay by Boaz Yakin, Victoria Arch. Cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond. Produced by Lawrence Bender, Sarah Green. Music by Heitor Pereira. Production Design by Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski. Costume Design by Isis Mussenden. Film Editing by Luis Colina, Scott Richter.
Add a little salsa to the original mix and you basically have a humdrum remake of the 1987 sleeper hit. This time, the uninitiated young woman (Romola Garai) is the daughter of a Ford Motors executive who moves with her family to a just-pre-revolutionary Cuba. There she is introduced to the high society of other American bigwigs and their snobby sons and daughters, but the boy who catches her eye is (naturally) from the wrong side of the tracks. He is a busboy (Y Tu Mama Tambien‘s Diego Luna, who couldn’t be more appealing) with killer dance moves that inspire her to ask him as partner in a big hotel contest that could win them both a lot of money. The young faces in this film are fresh and adorable, with Garai’s few missteps the only drawbacks in generally congenial performance. The narrative naturally leaves a lot to be desired, and is even audacious enough to claim to be a true story when really it closely resembles every other ‘let’s put on a show’ movie ever made. The best thing going for this exercise in marketing is the fabulous soundtrack, which pounds through the speakers with lively Cuban music but then insults its audience by using some anachronistic selections that take one immediately out of the experience and make it obvious who the film’s target audience is. The unassuming, spontaneous quality that made the original so memorable is not in evidence here, rather it’s an opportunity to simply cash in on a trend. Rent Dance With Me starring Chayanne and Vanessa Williams instead; its story is just as lame but the music and dancing are much better and in higher supply. Patrick Swayze has a cameo as a dance instructor, while Sela Ward is absolutely lovely (too lovely, in fact she outshines her daughter) as the heroine’s conflicted mother.