A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's a bit of cursing, some drinking, and one brief scene with a half-clothed couple (not the protagonists) in bed. Younger kids may need a little help understanding why Fran's father is so outraged over his grown-up daughter's platonic friendship with a personable young man. The "mockumentary" format and the exaggerated, over-the-top humor might leave younger kids lost, but teens and sophisticated tweens will enjoy it.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In a "mockumentary" format featuring interviews with various characters, STRICTLY BALLROOM introduces viewers to the glamorous, sometimes absurd, and occasionally cutthroat world of competitive ballroom dance. Hotshot young dancer Scott Hastings (Paul Mercutio) causes a scandal by dancing steps of his own invention. His partner is outraged, the president of the Dance Federation is vindictive, and Scott's hyper-competitive mother is mortified. Scott, however, just wants to dance what's in his heart, and he finds an unexpected and at first undervalued ally in Fran (Tara Morice), a novice dancer at his mother's studio. The plot is no less satisfying for being predictable. Fran ditches her glasses and her frumpy clothes and turns out to be as beautiful as she is talented. She gains in self-confidence what Scott loses in arrogance, and they evolve into perfect partners (both in dance and romance) just in time for the big competition.
Is it any good?
More than a Cinderella story in tuxedos and sequins, this film balances successfully on a fine edge between farce and drama, keeping our sympathy for the characters without neglecting the laughs. Plot twists abound, and Fran's wrong-side-of-the-tracks family turns out to know quite a bit about dance and about life. They teach the film's most important message: "A life lived in fear is a life half-lived."
Director Baz Luhrman's eye for lush visual detail never fails, and the dance sequences are a treat. An understated but achingly romantic rumba to a Doris Day song stands out, as do some marvelous scenes with Fran's flamenco-dancing father. This is a feel-good movie with a keen comic edge, guaranteed to lift your spirits. Outrageous, visually delectable, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's celebration of artistic integrity and joy over competitiveness. What's more important, playing to win or enjoying yourself? Should Scott and Fran expect to win the dance competition even though they break the rules? It's worth pointing out that unexpected revelations from Scott's hopelessly dorky father and his selfish dancing partner show that even the most unpromising people may have hidden depths of courage and generosity.
- In theaters: January 1, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: March 19, 2002
- Cast: Bill Hunter, Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice
- Director: Baz Luhrmann
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: comic violence, a few profanities and some mild vulgarity and sexuality.
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