cranky home
Reviews since 1993:   A-E     F-N      O-Z    Posters       Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do         Search the Site

Your Donations support the Site

Top Selling DVD     Books

50 Shades of Grey
Exodus Gods and Kings
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game, The
Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Theory of Everything
Ride Along
We're the Millers
The Great Gatsby
The Avengers
Amazing Spider-Man
Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo
Dark Knight Trilogy
World War Z
Happy Feet 2
Iton Man 3 combo
Batman Begins
Dark Knight
Fifth Element
The Hangover
Hunger Games
James Bond 11 disc coll.
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible GP
Sherlock Holmes AGOS
Singing in the Rain
Snow White Huntsman
Star Trek Into Darkness combo
Star Wars Saga
21 Jump Street
Ultimate Matrix coll
X-Men First Class
X-Men Trilogy
X-Men Wolverine

 BLU-Ray for Family DVDs 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A Bug's Life
Chronicles of Narnia set
Harry Potter 1-8 collection
Iron Man 2 combo
Kung Fu Panda
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Pinocchio
Pirates of Caribbean trilogy
Pixar short films
Shrek the Whole Story
Sleeping Beauty
The Smurfs
Snow White & 7 Dwarfs
Star Trek motion pictures set
Star Trek TNG Season One
Star Wars Saga (1-6)
Toy Story combo
Toy Story 2 combo
Toy Story 3 combo
Wall-E SE


Search engine by FreeFind
Click to add search to YOUR web site!
click to search site

Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
Kung Fu Panda
The Lion King
Mary Poppins 45th LE
Princess Mononoke
Shrek the Whole Story
Simpsons Movie
Spider-Man Trilogy
Spirited Away
Star Trek movies set
Star Trek TOS (TV)
ST:TNG complete tv set
Star Wars Trilogy (1-3)
Star Wars Trilogy (4-6)
Toy Story DVD combo
Toy Story 2 DVD combo
Toy Story 3 DVD combo
Wallace and Gromit
Wall-E SE

Buy Movie collectibles
TV/Movie Collectibles

movie review query engine

NY film critics online

Privacy Policy

Click for full sized poster

The Dancer Upstairs

Starring Javier Bardem and Laura Morante
Screenplay by Nicholas Shakespeare
Based on his novel
Directed by John Malkovich

IN SHORT: A great example of an adaptation that screams "I was an intricately layered book so here's bits and pieces of all of me!". [Rated R for strong violence, and for language. 135 minutes]

As always, we make no comparison to Source Material. That being said, we can also tell when that source novel is probably one big honker of a book. It's usually because the adaptation (in this case by the novel's author Nicholas Shakespeare) is so unwieldy that it is almost impossible to make sense out of any of the subtext. Dancing With Angels is an intricately layered tale of murder and mystery and the possibility of a Communist overthrow of a South American country by a mysterious leader called Ezequiel. On that level alone, Dancing With Angels is a deliberate and slow paced sit, needing time to introduce the principal characters and establishing the utter randomness of the violence presaging the (allegedly) forthcoming revolution. That slowness is death.

In the city, controlled by the military who seem to allow as much "normalcy" as possible in such situations, life has been quiet. There are reports of random violence out in the country but nothing strikes home as hard as the sight of a dynamite stuffed dead dog hanging from a light pole. A sign pledges the coming of a new president, Ezekiel. Violence against animals escalates into all sorts of other things PETA wouldn't approve of and then kidlets and car bombs join the battle. Assigned to investigate and solve the mystery before the military decides to bring the troops back in is detective Augustin Rejas (Javier Bardem).

Balancing the political is the Rejas' home life. His wife seems to yearn for a career in whatever will pass for South American infomercials or Tupperware or Avon shows. His young daughter Laura takes dancing lessons from the young and attractive Yolanda (Laura Morante) who Rejas finds mysteriously attractive. Flip a coin on where that can go. Still, for all, life in the big city is a step up from five years earlier, when Rejas was manning an ID checkpoint out in the boonies.

The paucity of evidence and slowness of investigation force the military to take over the investigation, but not before Rejas can slip a found notebook into his pocket. On one of its pages is a list of magazines and a set of numbers. Logically, his team starts following the model on the covers of the magazines -- be very glad that we're telling you this -- and one thing leads to another. We're not going to explain the frequent blackouts and the fireworks and various other layers and hints buried in the story. Those we found to be clearly explained.

Our problem with The Dancer Upstairs isn't that certain suspects or bits of evidence or leads come from the slimmest of connections, which they do; it's that many suspects and bits and leads pop into the story from beyond nowhere and then quickly return from whence they came. It may be that, in real life, a detective pulls the pieces of a case together from scattered leads that have no interaction. At the pace helmer John Malkovich reels it out, no suspense is built up. You can see the ending an hour away. If you can follow all the clues and aren't thrown by pop up characters.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Dancer Upstairs, he would have paid . . .


Rent it at the cheapest time of the week. Truth of our life in the reviewing game is that, once a screening is done, reviewers never discuss their impressions with the other reviewers, lest (our) reports become tinged and corrupt. After screening The Dancer Upstairs the elevator down was filled with a cacophony of questions as to who was who and why they were important, or not. Just being able to follow the main investigation isn't worth the sit.

amazon com link Click to buy films by John Malkovich
Click to buy films starring Javier Bardem
Click Here!

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.