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What woman would not want to dance the tango with Antonio Banderas?

When the music stops there are two reasons that I rounded up on "Take the Lead." The first is because of Antonio Banderas. Whether he is dancing the tango or opening the door for women, you just have to keep your eyes on this guy, and since he is relatively soft spoken for most of this 2006 film, you have to pay attention to understand what he is saying. The other reason is because of not only the aforementioned tango that Banadres dances with Katya Virshilas, but also the tango that is danced at the end of the film during the big dance competition. Any film that has Antonio Banderas dancing the tango is going to have its moments, which the trailer for this film amply proves.

Bandares plays Pierre Dulaine, who in real life was born of Irish and French parents, but obviously now needs to justify having a Spanish accent. He teaches ballroom dance to competitive dancers and upcoming debutantes and then because of an incident in street on his way home on his bike one night he decides to walk into the high school run by Principal Augustine James (Alfre Woodard) and tells her he wants to teach kids to do ballroom dancing. As much as a joke as anything else, she gets him to go baby sit the kids in detention in the Dungeon. The school's rejects look at Pierre like he is from another planet, especially when he starts playing Gershwin for them. We now what is coming from the trailer, but it takes Pierre a while before he gets the bright idea of showing the kids what ballroom dancing can be, which is where we finally get to the big tango sequence, a.k.a. "sex on the hardwood." Once the kids calms down, picking their jaws up off the floor and making other anatomical adjustments, they are ready to learn how to dance the dances Pierre has been trying to teach them.

The rest of the movie is challenged to top that scene, especially given the fantastic black dress Virshilas wears that looks even better in motion. This is one of the hottest scenes in a movie I have seen all year and I cannot even think of what comes second on that list after seeing the whole bit in the movie and not just the tantalizing tidbit in the film. You get multi-angles on the scene in the DVD's special features, which ironically underscores one of the problems in movies like this, namely that there are always so many cuts when they edit the dance scenes that it is hard to really enjoy the performances. I have the same complaint about most action scenes, because whether we are talking fighting or dancing, I like to actually see what is going on.

I loved "Mad Hot Ballroom," the documentary about the much younger kids who enjoy the real Pierre Dulaine's ballroom dance lessons and competition in New York City every year. There is really no way that this film can match the emotional power of that documentary, especially given that this is a fairly standard mentor movie, with each of the kids in the Dungeon having their own little subplot to play out, but--and this is a key difference--with people dancing the tango. That particular dance comes back at the end when the kids get to make the tango their own. What they do is not as stunning as the first one, but it is fairly unique as tangos go (this side of the movie version of "Rent"). Ultimately, "Take the Lead" forgoes the total conversion of the kids by their teacher to offer a synthesis in which they bring their own style to ballroom dancing. Clearly the point here is to feel good and to dance, but music video director Liz Friedlander's debut feature film aspires to nothing more and delivers everything that was promised in the trailer.