Since the early days of movie-making one of the most crowd-pleasing film genres is the dance movie. Whether it be old school Gene Kelley or Fred Astaire or more modern takes like the Step-Up movies, Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Center Stage and more. These movies usually have a similar structure and end with the triumphant last dance performance or competition. Maybe it is because I’m an absolutely atrocious dancer but these films almost always work for me. There’s just something satisfying about seeing someone learn a new skill and usually they involve some level of romance, which of course I love.
This year we have a charming new entry in the dance genre entitled Tango Shalom. It is a family affair directed by Gabriel Bologna (of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) and written (and co-starring) his father Joseph Bologna in his final role and his Mother Renee Taylor of The Nanny fame.
It tells the story of a Hasidic Jewish man named Moishe who is struggling to pay his rent pay for his daughter’s wedding. One day he stumbles upon a local dance studio and meets instructor Viviana (played by Dancing with the Stars pro Karina Smirnoff). Through various convoluted turn-of-events they end up dancing in a big prize competition and they both grow and change from the experience.
Tango Shalom reminded me a lot of the great 1996 Japanese film Shall We Dance (not the less good American remake). In that film a tired Japanese businessman sees a woman dancing and decides to take lessons from her. Like Moshe that lead is married and committed to his marriage, so this is not that kind of rom-com. No cheating is involved. In fact, in this case there is a lot of effort put into them keeping the tradition of social distancing for religious reasons. Both stories are about the connection, self-confidence and joy that comes from breaking the day-to-day grind of normal life- the happiness that comes from learning something new and having fun with a project.
I do think Tango Shalom could use some editing and not all the comedic bits work but overall it is a sweet heart-warming story with a message of faith, acceptance and tolerance. I enjoyed it and think you will too.
Tango Shalom is available to rent from all the major streamers. What’s your favorite dance themed movie?
7 out of 10
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My friend Sean Chandler over on his youtube channel talks about ‘Taco Bell movies’ and what he means by that is movies he knows aren’t great feats of artistic cinema but that make him happy when he’s in the mood for an easily digestible fun experience at the movies. His might be dopey action movies like Jurassic World where mine are feel-good community stories that usually involve some kind of romance. Often they will involve Christmas and sometimes dance is an element, preferable all 3. This should be no surprise to anyone as I am the founder and host of an entire podcast about these types of films, The Hallmarkies Podcast.
Recently a film debuted on Netflix which totally fits this type of experience called Feel the Beat. This film stars Sofia Carson (who I mostly know from the Descendants franchise) as April a young woman who is trying to make it as a dancer on Broadway with little to no luck. She was the big star in her town but after a big disgrace with a major director her hopes of starring on Broadway seem like an impossibility. So home she goes to small town somewhere with her Dad played by the always great Enrico Colantoni.
I really liked Carson in this role. She’s not only a gifted dancer (which we already knew) but she’s beautiful, warm and charismatic. Through various shenanigans her character becomes involved in the local dance studio, helping a small group of girls (and boy) become the best dancers they can. These kids are adorable and they all did a good job in their individual and team struggles.
We also have hunky Nick played by Wolfang Novogratz who April dumped via text before she went off to Broadway and they have a nice chemistry together. Is everything between them completely predictable? Of course it is but that’s part of the pleasure of watching a movie like this. When they have the chemistry all those predictable moments are a joy as you smile when each beat is met along the way. It’s like going on a scavenger hunt you’ve already done before. Sure you know all the steps along the way but the sweets still taste good when you find them.
There was also a nice amount of diversity for this type of film whether it be Carson, Rex Lee, Brandon Michael Goodman to a diverse group of young girls including black and deaf actresses who get sweet storylines.
My only real complaint with Feel the Beat is I could have used even more dancing. When compared with movies like the Step Up series the dancing here feels a little sparse. Part of that is probably because we are dealing with small children but they could have included more.
Again Feel the Beat does not reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t need to. It executes a sweet story with heart making it an enjoyable Netflix watch for a lazy Saturday morning. You can watch it with your family and have a nice time together. It’s a fun family dance movie with some drama and romance mixed in for good measure. Just my kind of film!