A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie explores the depth and complexities of race relations. Issues of challenging stereotypes, peer pressure, the good and bad of coming of age in the inner city.
Positive Role Models
Derek learns to stand up to peer pressure, choosing his future over the acceptance of his friends in the neighborhood who are up to no good. Sara and Derek connect through a shared love of dancing, as Sara ignores the casual racism of her best friend in the suburb where she grew up, and they both stand up to the harsh judgments of those around them.
Violence & Scariness
Two drive-by shootings. The mother of the lead character is shown in a fatal car accident. Two teen girls get into a fight in the gym: shoving, punching. Man at a nightclub grabs the rear end of one of the female characters.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some talk of sex. Teen pregnancy; one of the teen characters is trying to take care of her baby. Some sexually provocative dancing in a nightclub. Masturbation joke.
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"N" word infrequently used. "F--k." In a classroom scene, homosexual slur used when discussing Truman Capote and In Cold Blood. "A--hole," "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn." Slang term for African American men who date white women used. "Negro" used as an insult between African American teen girls.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at a club, get in with fake IDs. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Save the Last Dance is a 2001 movie in which a white suburban teen moves to the city and begins a romance with an African American teen from her new high school in Chicago. This movie has strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and the soundtrack lyrics have even stronger language, including the "N" word. There are two drive-by shooting scenes: gunshots, a car explodes, characters are sent to the hospital and arrested. Two teen girls get into a fight in the gym, with punching and shoving. Chenille has an out-of-wedlock child (and a difficult relationship with the child's father). Derek has to decide whether his loyalty to an old friend (and his sense of guilt at the friend's having taken the rap for them both) means that he must go along with him when he plans to shoot someone. Characters object to the interracial romance, mostly because they are jealous. The characters buy fake IDs so that they can go to a club that serves liquor, and they drink and smoke. During an in-class discussion about In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, a homosexual slur is used while discussing Capote. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Save the Last Dance is a formulaic coming-of-age/teen romance with an MTV spin (MTV co-produced the movie). While the script is below average, even by the low standards of this genre, its performers are attractive and sincere (Kerry Washington is particularly appealing), and most teens are still so new to this category of film that it may not seem clichéd to them.
This movie requires suspension of disbelief that is close to complete abandonment of any sense of reality: Characters who live in the poorest circumstances seem to have all the money they need to buy fake IDs or expensive tickets. Students who get good grades never seem to do any homework or have any books in their backpacks. A teenager with a baby never has a problem with childcare. Still, no one watches this movie to gain great insights about the human condition. It's nowhere near Grease or Flashdance in style, soundtrack, or dance, but it may appeal to teens who see it as one big music video.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.