Gotta Dance -- Film Review

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A feel-good movie if ever there was one, Dori Berinstein's "Gotta Dance" charts the formation of the NETsationals, the senior dance team of the NBA's New Jersey Nets, for one glorious season.

The film should please a wide-ranging audience, from that older demographic traditionally shunned by Hollywood to younger viewers who will be shocked and awed by grandparent-aged people's ability to get jiggy.

"Motley" wouldn't even begin to describe this particular dance crew, which includes Betsy, a 61-year-old dedicated kindergarten teacher who calls her wilder dancing alter ego "Betty"; Deanna, 64, a New York legal secretary who was busted by her boss for taking a "sick day" when TV cameras recorded her successful audition; Fanny, 81, a Filipina grandmother and survivor of the Japanese occupation of her homeland in World War II; and Joe B, 60, the feisty, lovable sole male member of the troupe.

A squad of blond, buff, Barbie-like Nets cheerleaders take over these seniors' training, which turns out to be fairly rigorous. "We have a responsibility to the fans," is the mantra of these choreographic martinets, and the age and inexperience of the would-be hip-hoppers buys them no easy pass, as the pressure mounts before game day and routines are drummed into them with boot-camp ferocity.

They finally make their public debut in the New Jersey Meadowlands arena, and their reception is a triumph, garnering them a standing ovation as well as a sudden rush of media exposure, with adoring newspaper and TV coverage making them the new silver sweethearts of America.

But they barely have time to savor their success, as it's on to the rehearsals for their next performance. The pressure is even greater this time, as the celebrity-distracted rehearsals put them in jeopardy of being completely cut from the game by the Nets' all-powerful, uncompromising vp entertainment.

Berinstein delves into the outside lives of some of the participants, which lends added interest and viewer involvement. Through it all, the message is, "Life doesn't end at 60," and most of the dancers are vibrant reminders of that fact. This is never more apparent than when, during a break from performing, listening to the boogie-woogie music being played for the younger cheerleaders' rehearsal, Joe suddenly grabs one of his ladies and starts to jitterbug with her. The man has displayed some serious rhythm issues during the hip-hop routines but now reveals a suave, easy grace in swing dancing that puts the robotically precise, strenuously over-the-top, sweaty choreography of the nubile youngsters to shame.

The film is technically smooth and well-edited, including a snappily fun shopping trip to Macy's wherein Betsy is made to realize by her supportive fellow dancers that one doesn't always have to dress one's age, with beautiful results.

This small journey of self-discovery, even at an advanced age, mirrors the larger one Berinstein so fondly addresses here and leaves you with that oh-so-rare but genuine warm and fuzzy feeling.

Opens: Friday, July 31 (Dramatic Forces)
Production: Dramatic Forces
Cast: The 2007 NETsational Dance Team, Jaclyn Sabol, Marla Collins, Kimberlee Garris, Petra Pope
Director-producer: Dori Berinstein
Screenwriters: Dori Berinstein, Adam Zucker
Executive producers: Linda Goldstein Knowlton, Adam Miller, Alan Fisher, Glen Siegel
Co-producer/director of photography: Leo Lawrence
Music: Craig Sharmat
Editor: Adam Zucker
No rating, 95 minutes
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