Peter Chelsom’s Shall We Dance? may be the most polite seven-year-itch comedy ever made. In Chicago, a bored Richard Gere is riding on the 6, err, L, when he spots a sad J. Lo looking out the window of a dance studio. One day, the train inexplicably makes a stop in front of the establishment (must be running local today!) and John (Gere) decides to take lessons. Has he caught the dance fever or does he just have a wandering pee-pee? Maybe a little bit of both? You think John isn’t telling his wife Beverly (Susan Sarandon) about his new hobby because, like the repulsive loon played by Stanley Tucci, he’s hot for teacher, or doesn’t want anyone to think he’s a club-hopping tinkerbell (see closing credits), but his reason is more maudlin than that: He’s so happy with his marriage to his wife that he doesn’t want her to get the wrong idea should he tell her that he wants some “me” time after 19 years together. Middle-brow tosh like Shall We Dance? (a remake of Masayuki Suo’s popular 1997 import of the same name) seemingly exists to appeal to middle-aged, undersexed men and women in unhappy marriages, not to mention idiots who think the epitome of comedy is seeing two men dancing together. For the younger generation, there’s at least a half dozen gay panic jokes to coddle their sexual anxieties, but the film truly belongs to their parents: Husbands can think about tasting Jennifer Lopez’s Adobo Goya and wives can think about Richard Gere doing a ring around their rosies before both going home to back-to-back goodnights. A strange vision of exotic desire, Lopez (wonderful when the filmmakers finally allow her to turn her frown upside down) is essentially reduced to playing the role of Spicy Virgin Mary. In the end, this G-rated version of Unfaithful suggests that if middle-aged men and women think about it hard enough, it’s possible for them to have their cake…just as long as they rub up against it but don’t eat it.
True to the spirit of the film, skin tones on this Shall We Dance? DVD are a little on the pink side-if the effect is not exactly pleasant, it’s at least in keeping with the film’s intended aesthetic agenda. The audio is infinitely superior: The surrounds are energetic but it’s the robust-sounding dialogue that’s the real highlight, all the more impressive for never entering snap-crackle-pop territory.
I have to give Peter Chelsom props for saying that he was "very happy with the dog and the dog’s reaction" on chapter 15. After seeing the face of the dog, it’s now impossible for me to say anything remotely bitchy about this man or commentary track, which is about what you’d expect for a film of this kind. Kicking off a series of deleted/extended scenes is an awesome ballroom sequence that brings to mind a Carlos Saura film-it was cut for obvious reasons, but it’s now easier to imagine the film that Shall We Dance? could have been but Chelsom probably couldn’t make (or wasn’t allowed to). Rounding out the disc is a behind-the-scenes featurette, a ballroom-for-dummies mini-doc, the Pussycat Dolls’s "Sway" music video (did the editors at Maxim finance this thing?), and trailers for Carolina, the original Shall We Dance?, and Finding Neverland.
Shall We Dance? Let’s not.