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'SHALL WE DANCE?' IS GREAT FUN

SHALL WE DANCE? ***

Rating: PG-13

In a cramped Chicago dance studio, two acquaintances float across the floor, effortlessly, but with passion.

Sound romantic? It is. But Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez aren't in love in "Shall We Dance?" They share a love of dancing.

In "Shall We Dance?", Richard Gere plays John Clark, a tired, bored lawyer from Chicago. When John sees a beautiful woman, Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), staring pensively out of a dance studio's window, he is captivated. But what begins as mere curiosity turns into a genuine passion -- one that keeps him away from home for a night each week. John keeps his new hobby a secret, leading his wife Beverly (Susan Sarandon) to worry that he's cheating on her.

If you've seen the Japanese original, be forewarned: this "Shall We Dance?" is very different. The original was about the restraint of Japanese culture; the remake is about rediscovery of happiness through dance. Hey, that's what happens when you're vying for an American audience.

Yes. "Shall We Dance?" is a bit of a "chick flick." But where so many other chick flicks fail, "Shall We Dance?" succeeds. Most chick flicks have "true love conquers all" as their moral, but "true love" is not the point of this movie. Unlike the limp jokes often found in chick flicks, the comedic elements of "Shall We Dance?" are actually very funny. And where most chick flicks star a slew of mediocre (or bad) actors, the cast of "Shall We Dance?" is one of the best around.

Is there anything better than watching Richard Gere ballroom dance? OK, OK, so maybe there is. But Gere didn't just perfect his dance moves -- he pulled off the role, too. His effortless charm is tuned down enough that his character's awkwardness is believable, but full of appeal.

Susan Sarandon turned 58 this month, but she hasn't lost her touch. She plays only a supporting character, but her scenes hold their own against the ballroom ones. We've come to expect the best from her, and she follows through -- she is as lovely and talented as ever.

Lopez turns out a surprisingly good performance. Most impressive is her dancing. Not only is the technique there, but there's the passion -- the look on Lopez's face when she's dancing is priceless. Her acting, on the other hand, is pleasantly vanilla.

Lisa Ann Walter gives a first-rate performance as an obnoxious dance lover with a fetish for flashy outfits. She is hilarious, providing the exaggerated yet sympathetic personality to fill out the feathers and Spandex.

So let go of your skeptical side or your tendency to over-analyze. Just sit back and enjoy a feel-good movie that has substance to counter its sappiness. It's not as contrived as you may think, for "Shall We Dance?" tells the story of someone who has it good, but wants even more -- happiness. And don't we all want that?

Emily Sullivan is a senior at City Honors.