Save the Last Dance

Stars:   Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Kerry Washington, Fredro Starr, Terry Kinney
Director:    Thomas Carter
Writers:    Duane Adler and Cheryl Edwards – from a story by Duane Adler

It’s like watching a remake of  Flashdance that incorporates teen angst and interracial dating. Some of the hip-hop moves are decent, but overall, I found the dance practice and numbers by star Julia Stiles severely lacking. This babe can’t cut the rug. She can’t even hold her arms correctly. The good things about the movie are Sean Patrick Thomas and its themes of race, family and responsibility.

Stiles plays Sara Johnson, an aspiring ballerina who loses her will to dance after her mother dies in a tragic accident on the same day Sara blows the audition of her life to the world famous dance school, Juilliard.

The suburban lass packs up her toe-shoes and heads off to Chicago’s tough side to live with Roy (Terry Kinney), her absentee dad who’s a jazz trumpeter. Now enrolled in school, Sara finds she’s one of only a few white kids. Lucky for her, Chenille (Kerry Washington) one of the school’s more sociable tough cookies, befriends her and so begins Sara’s rite of passage to black ways and byways.

Chenille’s intelligent and upstanding brother Derek, who goes to the same school, hopes to be accepted at Georgetown University and subsequently pursue a career as a doctor. His high-minded ideals contrast dramatically with best friend Malakai’s (Fredro Starr) who’s more interested in finding the next easy take than worrying about his school work. He’s just out of the juvenile clink, a result of saving Derek from a similar fate when the two did a deal together that didn’t work out. Without Derek’s smarts, however, Malakai believes his only recourse is the ways of the street thug. Derek tries desperately to convince him otherwise.

Chenille meanwhile bears her burden as a young single mom pretty well as she tries to get her kid’s father to take responsibility for his actions and ante up some needed support.

Sara learns to translate her dance skills from ballet to hip-hop courtesy of Derek and her new friends at the local dance club. And with Derek’s encouragement, she regains her will to aspire to a dancer’s life and once again confronts the auditioners at Juilliard. It’s a true  Flashdance moment.

Lotta says the music and dance will appeal to teens; the best moments are between Sara and dad Roy – Terry Kinney does excellent work with the little he’s given and Sean Patrick Thomas as Derek is an intelligent and winning actor. Julia Stiles is too reminiscent of many other young actresses to interest me greatly.

Reviewed 6/30/01