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How About We Don’t?

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A few months ago, I saw a commercial (or possibly a preview, hard to say) for a film starring Richard Gere, J-Lo, and Susan Sarandon. Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to such a flick, but the clip reminded me vaguely of something I’d seen before, so I tuned in a bit more carefully. The movie, of course, is Shall We Dance?, which is an American re-make of a Japanese film of the same name.

Wow, I thought. American studios have a history of turning excellent foreign films into garbage, but I couldn’t recall a case in which it was so obvious from the casting and from the tone of the clip that the remake would be a monstrosity. For example, The Vanishing is great and The Vanishing horrific, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the casting; Jeff Bridges is a good actor and Kiefer Sutherland, while not, is pretty weird and creepy. Not this time. In the original, the protagonist is played by Koji Yakusho, a very fine actor capable of playing quite introspection. His role is fascinating because he begins the film as a Japanese Babbitt, and ends it as a genuinely deep and interesting character. Moreover, this emerges not through revelation (he was really interesting all along, but no one knew), but through a process of development. Needless to say, Richard Gere is incapable of acting quiet, introspective, genuine, or interesting. Susan Sarandon is great, but not for the character she’s playing, which is a variation on the jealous but loyal wife character. J-Lo I can take or leave (Out of Sight demonstrates that she can indeed be a fine actress), but she’s inappropriate for character whose primary characteristic is inner conflict.

And the clip. Oh, the clip. In the Japanese version, the dance lessons are an existential threat to marriage and family; in the American version, Sarandon swoons as her hubby brings home new found steps. Ugh, the horror.

Film opens today. Stephen Holden was too kind (although I can’t understand how Rotten Tomatoes interpreted his review as positive), but Richard Roeper manages to say everything necessary:

Terrible film, terrible film

Rent the original.

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