Love n' Dancing -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

As a promotion for swing dancing, "Love n' Dancing" has its moments, especially when lithe, beautiful bodies twirl themselves around the dance floor with appealing athleticism. But as a movie trying to deliver comedy, drama and romance, you might want to sit this one out. It's not terrible, mind you, but it just isn't very good as the filmmakers seem more committed to charting the glory road to the West Coast Swing Championships than in creating characters and dramatic situations that resonate with an audience.

Put it this way: If you take away the dance, the movie has no reason to exist. The film looks likely to attract older audiences, and mostly women at that.

There have been a few films in recent years that suggest romance -- or at least an escape into therapeutic rejuvenation -- can be found in dance classes, starting with the surprise Japanese hit "Shall We Dance?" and then its American remake. The same applies to this film, only the filmmakers do throw a few heavy-duty road blocks in the way of its romance.

The dance instructor is still hung up over his old girlfriend and dance partner, while she, a teacher with a dull life, is already engaged. Jake Mitchell -- played by Tom Malloy, who wrote the script and co-produced the film -- is also deaf from a childhood ear infection, so he has to "feel" the music through its vibrations. He even turns off his hearing aids when he dances, which symbolically suggests that he retreats into his own world.

Jessica (Amy Smart) wants to take dance lessons so that she and her fiance, Kent (Billy Zane), can cut the rug at their wedding reception. But Kent has a much more committed relationship to his mobile phone as he pursues business sales seemingly on a 24-hour basis. So she takes the couple's lessons solo, which raises the eyebrows of Jake's ex, Corinne (Nicola Royston), who still hangs around the dance studio, seemingly just to punch Jake's buttons.

If you think you know what's ahead for these two couples from the brief synopsis, you do. There is truly not a single surprising thing that happens in this film directed by Robert Iscove, who began his career directing TV musical and variety presentations. And that includes the teacher and student's seemingly irrational decision to go for a world championship after only a few lessons. This predictability extends to all the film's gay characters, who show up simply for comic relief.

Malloy and Smart dance well together and fall credibly in love, though Malloy's deafness is less credible as he often hears dialogue when he can't possibly read lips. Royston, the wife of the film's producer-choreographer Robert Royston -- himself a champion swing dancer -- seems to enjoy playing the flirtatious ex, but the film never explains what prompts her nastiness. Zane has a role that he literally phones in.

Tech credits are solid if unspectacular.

Opens: Friday, May 8 (Screen Media Films)