In a special edition release of the 1992 film Strictly Ballroom, this theatrical romantic comedy is out to remind us that "A life lived in fear is a life half lived." A pretty heavy moral lesson for a cheesy love story, huh? As contrary as it sounds, that's exactly what Ballroom executes well. The film combines the upbeat, extravagant world of ballroom dancing with the soul of a lover's tale, though the romance element falls a bit to the background through the extreme caricatures.
It's a classic Baz Luhrmann love story, one of a forbidden relationship, trickery and excess. The characters are typical: a talented hero pursuing his own rules, an ugly duckling blooming into a swan, regretful parents who pushes upon their child the failed dreams of their pasts. Costumes are over-the-top with giant ruffles, glitter and feathers while dancers spin rapidly while sporting toothy smiles, big hair and vibrant makeup -- even the men. Actors over-express their emotions to enhance humor and drama, and perform their feelings in dance numbers.
The film follows Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) a champion dancer who's shunned by his domineering mother and studio team when he decides to spontaneously dance on his own terms without following standard ballroom dancing procedures.
After upsetting and losing his dance partner weeks before the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Amateur Championships, Scott secretly begins to practice with Fran (Tara Morice) an awkward beginning-level dancer who encourages and inspires him to continue dancing the beat of his own drum. Together they develop an intimate relationship through their rehearsals, despite the fact that unconventional dance moves continue to be rejected.
Of course, meanwhile Fran gets more physically attractive each scene, wearing better fitting clothes, losing her dorky glasses and taming her frizzy, curly hair. By the end of the film she certainly is prettier, but it's not a completely unrealistic
transformation in that she doesn't becomes a total babe. Her self-conscious personality remains true to her character though she does gain confidence as the film progresses. Scott's expressions, on the other hand, rarely change. He knows he's Prince Charming and persists to glare dreamily in every close up shots, ensuring that even through the sweaty dance routines, his hair remains perfectly tousled. The film seems aware of its satirical angle and displays it clearly.
The back of the DVD box predates itself to the "Dancing With The Stars phenomenon." The statement's accuracy is a bit questionable, but Mercurio is currently the Australian version's judge, so I suppose it's at the least bit appropriate. But if the movie predates anything, it's as an adult dance version of High School Musical. The faster they dance the more they're happy; similarly, slower waltzes are reserved to downtimes or moments of romance. Viewers can feel emotionally connected to the rhythms but also laugh along with the madness that is the Hastings family yearning to finally win the grand championship.
Included in the Bonus Features are the half-hour long samba to slow fox clip, a look inside the world of competitive ballroom dancing, and one small deleted scene that reiterates the story's focus of Scott's disapproved relationship with Fran. But the most important feature of the extras is the From Stage to Screen documentary, highlighting the time-consuming journey in the movie's production process. Luhrmann elaborates on his memories, despite the film being released a little under a decade ago, and this seems to be the only addition to Bonus Features that hadn't previously appeared in other releases.
Strictly Ballroom is a ridiculous, over-the-top romance full of enthusiasm and passion, but also a sweet and colorful underdog tale. Though the re-release seems a bit unnecessary, it's still a worthy pick up if you're feeling for a cliché Luhrmann classic. It's lighthearted and fun, especially fitting during this time of year.
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