Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School Movie Review

So here's the scoop: In 1990, a novice director named Randall Miller made a 30-minute short film called Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, about the titular academy for young children who learn to dance and be polite, etc. An amazing 15 years later, after paying his dues on films like Houseguest and H-E Double Hockey Sticks and TV shows like Popular, he figured he'd take that short, add an hour to it (which takes place 40 years later), and mix it up into a film called Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. (You see, he lost an apostrophe and an "and" but gained an ampersand.)

That's some dedication to your story, but it turns out that neither the original Hotchkiss nor the updated one merit that much consideration. The short is your expected coming-of-age tale: A kid named Steve hates girls, but over time (and thanks to Hotchkiss) he comes to love them, particularly a gal named Lisa.

In the update, a baker named Frank (Robert Carlyle) is driving along and is passed by a now-adult Steve (John Goodman), who promptly crashes his car into a wall. Frank gets out to help, and Steve tells him his tale, which consists of the 30-minute short film which is intercut into this one as a flashback. Only now, he's headed back to Hotchkiss to meet Lisa again, which they promised they would do when they were 12 years old, on this very appointed day.

Frank keeps the appointment for the near-dead Steve, and there's no Lisa there. There's no Marilyn Hotchkiss, either. The sessions are run by her daughter Marienne (Mary Steenburgen). Here, Frank, a widower, gets his demons exorcised, dallies with a fetching yet troubled girl (Marisa Tomei), and overall comes to see the magic of ballroom dancing in just a few short lessons. Side plots concern Tomei's stepbrother, a troublesome yet funny Donnie Wahlberg, and Frank's support group, who all eventually end up at the class.

Now what's this all got to do with Steve and Lisa? Absolutely nothing, and it's in this flashback structure where Hotchkiss really starts to fall apart. These two movies have almost nothing to do with one another, and you can't help but feel that the short should have stood on its own. The only problem, of course, is that ballroom dancing movies have been legion in the intervening years since the 1990 short. Hell, they made Shall We Dance? twice! Pretty much the same themes are at play here, too.

Add in the fact that the entire movie is ridiculous and you'll probably see why there's no reason to spend much time on this title. Unless, maybe, you really love Marisa Tomei (and I know you guys are out there).

The original short also appears on the DVD.

Cast & Crew

Director : Randall Miller

Producer : Eileen Craft, Randall Miller


Comments

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, 2005

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