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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




Shall We Dance [Blu-ray]


(Peter Chelsom, 2004)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Miramax Films

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 102

Chapters: 16

Size: 50 GB

Case: Locking Blu-ray case

Release date: May 6, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC MPEG-4



English 5.1 Uncompressed (48 Khz/24 –bit), English, French & Spanish 5.1 DD



English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese



• Audio Commentary with Director Peter Chelsom

• Behind the Scenes of Shall We Dance? (24 min.)

• Beginner's Ballroom (6:30 min)

• The Music of Shall We Dance? (4 min.)

• Deleted Scenes w/ optional commentary

• Pussycat Dolls:




The Film: 6
From his seat on the train he glances up at Miss Mitzi's Dance studio, John Clark (Richard Gere) is taken with the sight of Jennifer Lopez staring off emptily into space from the window. As he tells her much later in the movie: she looked to him at that moment how he felt on the inside. Clark is a successful attorney with a lovely and nurturing wife (Susan Sarandon) and two teenagers – the younger one is 14, a girl, and self-involved as is usual for the breed. I felt it curious – even inconsistent – that it is she, not her mother, who notices the changes in her father over the next couple of months.

It wasn't only the need for subtitles or the relatively subtle dynamics of Masayuki Suo's original 1996 movie, set in modern day Japan, but Hollywood's relentless appetite for any idea that it believes it can turn a profit with. Instead of leaving well enough alone, the story is transplanted to Chicago and everything about the original is suddenly drenched in methamphetamines: the comedy, the romance, the relationships. As it happens, with no surprise, the new movie rarely achieves compelling comedy or romance or relationship stuff, though it has its moments. In any case, it isn't either Gere or Lopez who brings off most of what is enjoyable or meaningful here. It's the supporting cast.

I like referring to a comment I once heard in a radio interview by Dustin Hoffman about actors and directors. (I refer to it so often it is becoming an embarrassment that I don't recall the source of the interview.) Hoffman said that actors are generally good enough these days that the performance on screen – good and bad – can usually be laid at the feet of the director. So what should I make of Gere's wooden performance and Lopez completely unable to find her character? Neither is helped by Audrey Wells' free-for-all script that leaps from pillar to post, despite the overall adherence (sometimes shot-for-shot) to the basic scenario of the original. It's not that the characters are actually complex, it's that they are used carelessly to make outbursts of whatever is demanded to tickle this person in the audience or that.

That said, there are several priceless moments: Sarandon's complicated expression as she watches her husband ballroom dancing for the first time (though I felt it was undone by its fulmination in the parking garage); Omar Miller's appearance with his "fiancée;" almost everything that Richard Jenkins, as the detective, does; and Lisa Ann Walter, in general, among them. Gere does look assured and alive in his quick-step number with Lisa Ann – another bit that is stepped on little too hard by a zealous director. And Lopez, with Gere, does create a smouldering tango, reminding us of her roots.


Image: 9 (9/9)
The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value on a ten-point scale for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

At first blush, and often throughout the movie, the image is just gorgeous: bold, saturated in deep reds, sharp. . . dynamic, one might say. As the camera settles on Richard Gere sitting on the elevated train on his way home from the office, we see clearly, alas, the effects of makeup. His face has a unappealing, pasty look, and his trademark shock of hair is strangely coarse. Hi-Def tells us more than what we want to know on the one hand, and not enough on the other. Hair is probably the one thing that present DVD technology doesn't quite get right. If it doesn't appear matted or out of focus, hair almost always looks like it's been sprayed with a kind of pixie dust that makes each strand stand out like fine dreadlocks. Compared to what really good SD can do with hair (cf: Boston Legal) Blu-ray isn't really all that much better.













Audio & Music: 9/8
Returning to the opening scene, the first voice we hear is that of Richard Gere as he reflects on the philosophy of wills and growth, living and dying. Mostly the living. I become keenly aware at what a limited melodic vocabulary has as an actor. On the other hand I rather like the music adaptation here, even as compared to the more amateurish (in keeping with the mood of the piece) Japanese film. It has a kind of garish quality that totally supports the production design. The sound mix is excellent and fills the room with enveloping sex appeal.

Operations: 9
Lots to like here: The menu interface itself is lovely to look at and the accompanying music hits just the right note. Each of the menu windows offers a brief description and times where appropriate. Best of all, once in a bonus feature, you may choose to return to the feature film or the main menu. What more can you ask!


Extras: 5
Right from the first, I liked Peter Chelsom, who had most recently directed Serendipity. I liked his openness as he spoke of Miramax's efforts to get him to sign on as director of a new adaptation of a modern Japanese classic. In his commentary he talks about the adaptation and the thinking behind the various changes required to move the setting to Chicago. He talks about his characters' motivation, and how his actors prepared for the dancing, since most were not experienced dancers. (Jennifer Lopez is the striking exception.) Yet I could not overcome my own disconnect between how he saw things and my own feeling about the movie. As always, your mileage may differ. The 480i image (4:3 or letterboxed) varies from scene to scene, most often only fair.



Bottom line: 7
Despite that I don't think all that highly of the movie, Shall We Dance offers the casual viewer a good time. The audio, the music and the visuals are all excellent, so you might want to give it a try.

Leonard Norwitz
May 17, 2008








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