Wednesday, February 16, 2005

DVD Review: Shall We Dance?

Many critics took great delight in panning this romantic comedy, which stars Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Lopez and Stanley Tucci. And frankly, much of the criticism is probably well deserved. Shall We Dance is full of familiar jokes and time-worn clichés. The script takes convenient liberties. The acting is often over the top. And perhaps Gere is miscast, and Stanley Tucci as well. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to snub your nose at this effort. But despite these shortcomings, both my wife and I really enjoyed the movie. Why? It is an uplifting romance, light on its feet and often funny. And it has a few simple messages that we found warm and inspiring.

Recently a friend who understands film theory better than I ever will told me that after years of study he had arrived at a simple formula: “I like movies that make me feel good.” Certainly there are other reasons people go to movies—maybe to be educated, provoked or excited. But there’s a lot to be said for feeling good. And that’s what my wife and I got from watching Shall We Dance —what we used to call "warm fuzzies."

Another DVD released this week presents a sharp contrast. Ray , the academy-award nominated Ray Charles biopic, has received critical acclaim. It is beautifully shot. Jamie Foxx gives an extraordinary performance. And the Ray Charles music is incredible, especially if you have an affinity for jazz, blues and gospel. Yes, this is one fine piece of movie-making, and I was riveted through the entire show.

But I can’t say that watching Ray made me feel good. Much of the drama centered around his years of heroin addiction and womanizing, which was incredibly hurtful for him and his family. I don’t doubt this is an accurate portrayal. It just pained me to experience it.

Variety is one of the wonders of modern cinema. It's nice to have choices, and I'm glad that I was able to appreciate both of these movies.


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