They're a rough-and-tough gang of incredibly heterosexual Australian steelworkers scraping by in a dying steel town. But all they really want to do is dance. Sadly, Jennifer Beals and her flaming Flashdance welding torch don't make a guest appearance in Bootmen, and that's a shame. Her high kicks and mid-air splits have never seemed more necessary.
Instead, we get Sean (Adam Garcia), the tap-dancing dreamer hoping to get the heck out of Newcastle and make it big in Sydney. He has to work it out with his girlfriend Linda (Sophia Lee) and ignore the insults hurled at him by his Foster's-drinking dad (Richard Carter) and his troublemaking brother Mitchell (Sam Worthington). After getting through all that, he hops on his motorcycle and heads to the big city to make his dreams come true.
But nightmares ensue. Landing a job with a dance troupe headed up by an agitated choreographer (William Zappa, in the same type of role played by everyone from Peter Gallagher to Malcolm McDowell in recent "dancer-with-a-dream" flicks). No sooner does Sean find himself in a cheesy Rockettes-like show than he finds himself fired for insubordination. With no backup plan in mind, he heads home in disgrace, his dream destroyed.
Back in Newcastle things have gone from bad to worse. Not only does he find out that the steel mill is set to close but he also discovers that his allegedly virginal girlfriend has surrendered her charms to his no-good brother. Newly galvanized to do something, anything, to make something good happen, he comes up with a scheme to retrain his about-to-be-fired friends as computer operators. But wait, there are no computers around. They'll have to buy some. But wait, there's no money. What will they do? Sean has an idea that would gladden Mickey Rooney's heart: Let's put on a show!
Cue the Footloose soundtrack as Sean turns his all-too-willing buddies into tap-dancin' fools and choreographs a manly dance extravaganza that's performed in the steel mill. Many sparks fly. Will everything work out for everyone? What do you think?
To understand why Bootmen fails, it helps to know that it evolved out of director Dein Perry's "Tap Dogs," which was strictly a theatrical dance show. By clumsily wrapping a fatally cliched plot around what could on their own be compelling dance numbers, the movie's creators muddle everything and drain the energy out of the dance itself. Garcia has feet of fury, but he's far less expressive from the neck up. Jennifer Beals may not have been much of a dancer, but she sure had charisma.
Bottom line: If you want to see straight Australians dance, rent Strictly Ballroom.
And we ain't talkin' about the robot!