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Center Stage

Rated [PG-13], 113 minutes
Starring Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy, Ethan Stiefel
Screenplay by Carol Heikkinen
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Official website

IN SHORT: all dancing. no singing. average fun.

A lightweight story as a vehicle for extravagant choreography, filled with attractive teens and dance moves that any jock would be hard pressed to duplicate? What a novel idea. It's that lightweight story bit that kills Center Stage. The dance sequences, and there are a number of 'em, are strictly to taste -- though there's an elaborate salsa setting (at a nightclub) and another piece set to metalicized Stevie Wonder, Center Stage's emphasis on classical ballet forms, is not to mine. I tell you that for two reasons: because you should always know if I'm a totally ignorant git about what I'm reviewing (I'm not -- there's a pro dancer in the family and one pro ex-girlfriend) and, two, because I try not to waste space comparing to earlier movies. This is not All That Jazz and doesn't try to be.

Center Stage's story tracks the time of a group of students accepted to a workshop at the American Ballet Academy. Lead face is Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull) whose technique and body shape aren't exactly thrilling to the teachers of the school. Her roomies include Eva (Zoe Saldana) who's tossing lip left and right and Maureen (Susan May Pratt) the snob with an overaggressive, pushy mom (Donna Murphy).

On the male side of the equation is returning star Cooper Nielson (Ethan Stiefel), after a year on the bottle, having lost his girlfriend to Academy head Jonathan Reeves (Peter Gallagher). Cooper's luck doesn't run as well this year, either. Though he's got an interest in Jody, she's also pursued by Charlie (Sascha Radetsky). The triangles will come into play in the dance numbers to come. And there's enough of those that I refer you back to the top paragraph as I head off to a different review.

Nicholas Hytner's direction of the dance sequences, though, leaves something to be desired. By the time you reach the final sequence, his camera's point of view has moved so often that, it appeared to me, that a good minute or so of the sequence was danced off the screen, ie. out of sight of the "audience" watching the stage performance.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Center Stage, he would have paid...


Rental level. Pretty faces in an average flick, dancing aside, may appeal to the female half of the demo. Dancing included, the boys will scream bloody murder.

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