Dance With Me

3 out of 10


A Cuban In Love At Dance Studio In US Ghetto

Is this a showcase for exciting Latin dancing? Or the potency of Cuban rum? One has to wonder as the production crew of "Mandalay Films" must have benn on something pretty halucinatory to have produced a film so technically inept it makes America`s funniest home videos look positively professional.

From the first moment, the production ream seem to be able to screw it up with almost gifted incompetance. Clearly the writers had intended to show Cuba as the land of dance, but the impression one gets is that it`s the land of gaudy film credits. Rafael receives a letter he`s awaited all his life. As the postman watches eagerly, he opens it. Is it his Visa to America? No, it`s the credits for the Head of the Wardrobe Dept!

Joke foul-up follows joke foul-up as the young Cuban arrives in the US to be greeted by Ruby (played by Vanessa Williams) in a scene where the camera shots of her are so uncomplementary that you wonder whether you`ve accidentally wandered into the sequel "Sumo Wrestle With Me". Yet this is nothing compared with the effects of lousy lighting on their first tender embrace, when he stares down passionately on a face with wrinkles you`d need a ski pass to get up.

Any dance film is normally quick and flashy and centred on dance. You don`t expect much of a story line. And indeed, you don`t get one here, as Rafael competes for the the love of the woman he adores with his chief rival, studio sound-boom. Yet lousy script control has dragged out a plot so thin you can read a newspaper through it, into a marathon epic that makes Tolstoy`s "War & Peace" look like a short story from the back of woman`s magazine. Realising this, the filmmakers had a simple solution, they shortened it by cutting out almost every exciting dance number and key scene. The result is a laughably disjointed story, where everytime the foot of a talented dancer so much as touches the floor, they cut to Rafael cleaning the window or eating a Taco. In some cases, it borders on the bizarre. For instance, at one point, there`s a long lingering shot of his new suit. Why? It`s not until the end credits we catch a glimpse of a scene they cut where he`s dancing in the clothes shop.

In a sense, it`s a deep shame. The scene by the swimming pool where Rafael discovers that the head of the studio is his real father should have been a real tearjerker if only the cameraman hadn`t lost control of the focus.. Likewise, Vanessa Williams produces a staggering performance. As she dances the RUmba at the Dance Championships in tear for the man she loves and lost, it wrenches almost raw emotion from you and equals to anything "Titanic" could produce, yet by now the audience are too punch drunk to care from the surrealistic continuity breakdowns, including a plastic Father Christmas that`s learnt to climb ropes between camera shots better than any toy commando out of "Small Soldiers".

At least, they end up going to live happily ever after in Cuba. How do we know it`s Cuba? Every time they go to embrace, the filmmakers stamp end credits all over them like a demented civil service clerk.

Appaulingly Badly Made "B" Movie

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett