Dancin' It's On full movie review - Dancing, dancing everywhere!
DANCIN' IT'S ON (2015) is amateurish on most levels and boasts some of the worst acting I've seen on the big screen in decades, but it has crude charm and a consistent vitality that I found quite endearing and loads of fun.
It's set in an alternate universe (identified on screen as Panama City Beach, Florida) where random people break out into spontaneous dance numbers at all hours of the day at the drop of a hat. What's not to love? The hoary plot has to do with a rich girl who loves to dance staying at her father's hotel for the summer who falls in love with a dishwasher who's a great dancer while her disapproving father has lined up his snotty protégé as the intended suitor for her, leading to all sorts of class conflict clichés that went out of favor decades ago. All this is just an excuse for two things: a steady stream of dance numbers and frequent infomercial spots extolling the virtues of Panama City Beach as a tourist resort. That's actually not a bad trade-off, especially since it leads to an exhilarating dance finale at the Florida Statewide Dance Contest where true love wins out and competing couples dance their hearts out.
Witney Carson, from the TV show, "Dancing with the Stars," plays the lead character, Jennifer, and she's awfully cute and a skilled dancer even if her line readings sound like...well, line readings! Her co-star, with the unwieldy name of Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, actually puts some effort into creating his character, Ken, the dishwasher-dancer, and deserves some props for trying, even if some acting lessons are still in order. He hails from the show, "So You Think You Can Dance." The other young performers are noticeably lacking in charisma, although the dreadlocked Russell Ferguson, also from "So You Think You Can Dance," brings abundant good cheer and punctuates the proceedings with trademark arm and hand moves from the "Electric Boogie" school of dance that flourished 30 years ago. He plays the youthful but all-knowing hotel doorman, known as "the Captain," and shows up as the MC at the big dance contest.
My favorite sequence finds poor Jennifer, brooding after a breakup, sitting alone on a bench on a darkened shopping street in downtown Panama City Beach at night, suddenly interrupted by a row of SUVs turning on their lights and a Latin band, complete with percussion section, suddenly appearing to perform while a hundred dancers descend on the street to execute a highly-choreographed number into which they pull the awestruck Jennifer. Now THAT's an alternate universe I can enjoy.
The only name actors in it are Gary Daniels, an English martial arts performer known to me from FIST OF THE NORTH STAR (1995) and THE EXPENDABLES (2010), who plays Jennifer's father, and David Winters, renowned for playing A-rab, one of the Jets in WEST SIDE STORY (1961). Winters also co-wrote, produced and directed the film. He appears as an elderly hotel resident who reveals his dance background to the young leads at a crucial moment and offers his assistance as they prepare for the dance contest. At one point, Ken, the dishwasher, looks up Winters' character on the computer and finds an old dance clip of his from a TV show from decades ago. I wish I knew where that clip is from. Winters dedicates the film to Sadie Winters, presumably his mother, "who is up there dancing with the angels," and to Gene Kelly, the legendary Hollywood musical star, who inspired him to take up dance.
I saw the film at a 42nd Street multiplex on a weekday afternoon knowing very little about it beforehand. As far as I know, it didn't even get reviewed. I was the only one in the theater. I attended an advance screening of SPECTRE at the same theater later that day, packed with people, and I can assure you I had more fun with DANCIN' IT'S ON than I did with SPECTRE.
As of this writing, I'm the only one I know who's even heard of this film, let alone seen it. This has all the makings of a cult film, but it needs a way to find its cult. If any film qualifies to be this generation's BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, it's this one.