The best thing you can say about Take the Lead is that it is what it is. Once you have seen the trailer with its stylish fast cut shots of attractive young people dancing up a storm, Antonio Banderas smoldering for the camera and beat-heavy dance music you know what’s going to happen in the movie. Usually I hate that, but in this case I found myself caught up in the story about a ballroom dance teacher who decides to help a group of misfit inner city school kids learn about teamwork, respect and trust by teaching them the waltz, the rumba and the tango. This is an “inspirational coach movie.” Think of it as Cha Cha Chariots of Fire or Dancing with the Stars with slide rules.
Banderas plays Pierre Dulaine, based on a real-life dancer who ventured into rough schools and helped transform the lives of kids through dance. Banderas brings his trademarked passion to the role, and it is that enthusiasm that helps sell this movie. The storyline is predictable but touching and the filmmakers have done a good job of setting up the backstories of the characters so we actually care about them. By the time we get to the big dance-off—you know there has to be a big dance-off—we have left all preconceptions of reality behind and are simply rooting for the kids to win because by this point ion the movie we have come to know and like them.
Take the Lead is an after-school special elevated by endearing performances and some pretty snappy dance moves.