Save The Last Dance (2001)
Main cast: Julia Stiles (Sara Johnson), Sean Patrick Thomas (Derek Reynolds), Kerry Washington (Chenille Reynolds), Fredro Starr (Malakai), and Terry Kinney (Roy Johnson)
Director: Thomas Carter

Teen romantic drama Save The Last Dance must be commended for trying to break down the last taboo in Hollywood - interracial romance. But it also tries to be safe and ends up shortchanging its own potentials, and this include its main actors Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas.

Sara Johnson is a talented ballerina whose dreams are cut short by the death of her mother. She moves in with her father, Roy, in a rough part of town, and attends a predominantly-Black high school (Sara's White). She clashes at first with class smartypants Derek, but when she befriends Derek's sister Chenille, Derek begrudgingly teaches her how to dance the hip-hop so that she can fit into the clubs and all. (Lessons? Excuse me, we're talking about movie schools here - who goes to school to study in the movies? Hello!)

Naturally, the way they dance, you know, her squishing her tush to his crotch and all, what do you think will happen next, them being hormonally-overcharged teens and all? Subplots include Derek's friend and gangsta Malakai who has watched too many Spike Lee movies and is trying to drag Derek down with him. Oh, and there's a jealous Black ex of Derek's, and Chenille's thing with the man who made her a single mother.

But Save The Last Dance shoots itself in the foot with its timid script. Stiles and Thomas have zero chemistry, and apart from a brief scene of heavy kiss/undress, they seem more like friends than lovers with chemistry who "want to be with each other". Every Black character in this story, apart from the gang members, are saintly and so sweet that rock sugar can melt in their presence. The only memorable character is Chenille, a single mother forced to grow old before her time even as she struggles to keep a straight and happy face, and she and Sara play each other off perfectly.

There are some great hip-hop and modern ballet dances in this one, and those are great to watch. But at the end of the end, Save The Last Dance is just too safe and tame to be memorable.

Rating: 75

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