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New Line Home Cinema presents
Take the Lead (2006)

"Check Mr. Dulaine! He's just gettin' his flirt on."
- Eddie (Marcus T. Paulk)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: September 08, 2006

Stars: Antonio Banderas
Other Stars: Rob Brown, Alfre Woodard, Yaya DeCosta, Katya Virshilas, Dante Basco, Jenna Dewan, and Lyriq Bent
Director: Liz Friedlander

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (thematic material, language, and some violence)
Run Time: 01h:56m:58s
Release Date: August 29, 2006
UPC: 794043103636
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BAA+ B+

DVD Review

Before America tired of Dancing with the Stars, New Line jumped onto the dance floor with Take the Lead. This is basically an Antonio Banderas vehicle, but it's also a true story that features some truly infections dance sequences sure to please.

Banderas plays real-life dance instructor Pierre Dulaine, a man known world-wide for his talents. Dulaine loves dance so much that he donates his time to teach inner city kids some moves, whether they like it or not. After witnessing a young man named Rock (Rob Brown) destroying a car, Dulaine visits his school the next day and convinces the owner of the car, the principal (Alfre Woodard), to hire him as a dance instructor/detention hall monitor. Once Dulaine gets inside the kids' heads, he begins to see some potential, but their rough personal lives threaten everything that they've worked for.

Perhaps you really have to love dance to instantly get into Take the Lead. Still, despite my reservations and the many slow parts of the film, I couldn't help but want to get up and groove along with these kids by the final act. This type of film is about two things: selling the melodramatic character arcs and dance, baby, dance! While the former content approaches sappy land far too often, the latter is infectious as can be, and will threaten to yank the inner Fred Astaire out of even the manliest of men.

The thing that keeps Take the Lead from achieving greatness is its middle section. With an amazing opening credits sequence that fuses Jazz with Q-Tip's incredible voice, we get the feeling that we're in for something truly special. Sure, the film has its moments, but following this opening we get too much bland dialogue that basically serves as filler between dances. Wading through this muck in the middle proves worth it, though, as the dance contest finale is engrossing and a ton of fun. Director Liz Friedlander, a veteran behind numerous music videos, shows off her penchant for such material in both of these book-ending sequences, blending trippy visuals with pulse-pounding music.

Antonio excels as always, but the young actors that make up the supporting cast frequently steal the show. Alfre Woodard is always good, but the kids do such a convincing job with their dance techniques, it's easy to root for them. Brown and Yaya DeCosta (yep, from America's Next Top Model) have nice chemistry, as do the eventual trio of dancers played by Dante Basco, Jenna Dewan, and Lyriq Bent. Let's not forget the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks gorgeous Katya Virshilas, who plays Morgan, the hot blonde that dances with Banderas in the film's trailer. She's not the greatest actress in the world, but she doesn't have to be, as she defines what the tango is all about during her scene with Antonio, a scene that's a prime example of what makes Take the Lead work (when it does work, that is).

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is top-notch thanks to sharp, sublimely detailed images. The wide color palette is rendered brilliantly, featuring wonderful hues that burst off of the screen, especially during dance sequences. There aren't any flaws, such as dirt or grain, making for a clean presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is incredibly deep, and features a wide dynamic range that frequently puts the surrounds and subwoofer to work. There's tight, aggressive bass as early as the opening credit sequence, and the track takes every dance sequence to the next level. Despite the intense music, the dialogue is always easy to hear. There's a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix as well, but it pales in comparison to the more dynamic 5.1.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Getting Played, Face the Music, Grilled, ATL, The Lake House, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
7 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Liz Friedlander and editor Robert Ivison
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Trailer Remixes - 3 alternate versions of the trailer.
  2. You Take the Lead: Multi-Angle Tango - The tango dance scene from four different angles.
Extras Review: This nice extras collection includes an audio commentary track with director Liz Friedlander and editor Robert Ivison. The pair has a nice rapport as they talk about the basics of making Take the Lead, from the casting choices to the dance choreography.

A collection of seven deleted scenes run for nearly six minutes, and has optional audio commentary by Friedlander. These clips were rightfully cut from the finished film, as they would have drawn out the non-dance segments even more.

You Take the Lead: Multi-Angle Tango is a look at the tango dance scene with Banderas and Katya Virshilas. You can use your DVD player's remote to switch between angles in this 90-second sequence.

Meet the Dungeon Kids is a 16-minute segment featuring interviews with the dancing kids. There's some nice, candid discussion, as we get to hear everything these non-dancers went through to learn their steps. Between the Steps: A Profile of Pierre Dulaine is 17 minutes profiling the real man that Antonio Banderas is portraying.

A 10-minute featurette, Liz, Swizz, and Ziggy: The Director and Her Music Team, focuses on the crew behind the dancing, taking an extended look at Friedlander's resume.

Finishing the supplements up is the theatrical trailer, as well as three "Trailer Remixes."

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

While Antonio Banderas vehicles are hard to come by these days, Take the Lead is a nice bit of work by the charismatic actor. Buoyed by a strong supporting cast and some ultra-exciting dance numbers, this little film has a huge chance at finding a wide audience on DVD. It isn't a classic by any means, but the soundtrack alone is worth it! Of course, an impressive video transfer and healthy collection of extras don't exactly hurt either.


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