Save the Last Dance Movie Review

It is a strange coincidence that, as I rode in a taxi to the screening of Save the Last Dance, Irene Cara's "What a Feeling" played on the radio. I could imagine no more of a fitting primer for a film that basically amounts to Flashdance 2001.

Save the Last Dance is the story of a spunky white girl named Sara (Julia Stiles, State and Main) who has a gift for ballet. When her mother dies in a car crash on her way to one of Sara's dance auditions, Sara is not only devastated; she also fails the audition. With her mother gone, she is forced to move in order to live with her jazzman father in a seedy Chicago neighborhood where spunky white girls are an extremely rare find. Soon, however, she is hitting the dance floor once again -- trading in her ballet slippers for a thick-soled pair of hip hop sneakers. And it doesn't take long before the romance begins.

While Sara may funk it up in the ballet studio, she has a lot to learn about hip hop. Fortunately, she finds an able tutor in her black classmate Derek Reynolds (Sean Patrick Thomas, Cruel Intentions). But when their dancing gets a little too dirty, sparks fly for the young couple, and their burgeoning love becomes a little more than society can abide. Can two people from different worlds find a common ground on which to jam?

In the spirit of all MTV-spawned productions, Save the Last Dance is a trite amalgamation of themes and scenes from other, more interesting, movies. I entered the theatre with a list of stock scenes one might expect from a movie about teenage love and race relations. And I wasn't surprised. There is, for instance, the obligatory scene in which the uptight, naïve white girl learns the freshest hip hop lingo, such as "chillin'" and "slammin'." There is the making-out-in-public-to-the-dismay-of-uncool-elders scene. And they were careful not to leave out the learning-how-to-dress-cool scene.

However, to the credit of this cast and crew, Save the Last Dance manages to overcome its own gross predictability to at least present one of the most credible teen films produced in the last decade. While Stiles never manages to portray anything resembling real grief over the loss of Sara's mother, she and Thomas have a meaningful on-screen chemistry that builds a believable relationship between their characters. The script is often cheesy and farcical, but intelligent pacing goes a long way toward generating the necessary tension to keep audiences involved.

Finally, a note about the titular dancing. There isn't much of it, and most of it is alarmingly bad. We are to believe that Sara is highly trained in ballet and gradually learns hip hop, but ultimately she shows proficiency in neither. The camera work and choreography never come together, and even the "big" dance numbers are boring. It's a good thing this movie has sub-plots to keep it moving. What a feeling, indeed.

Does baby got back?

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : Robert W. Cort,


Save the Last Dance Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2001


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