You wanna dance?
It’s a question that can make a person’s heart leap – or, if they’ve got two left feet, their pulse begin to pound anxiously. It can be a simply polite invitation — or a way to fill a gap in the conversation or change an awkward subject.
Or, in Ask Me to Dance, possibly the prelude to a real relationship.
A sweetly, but not stupidly, old-fashioned rom-com, the film stars Tom Malloy and Briana Evigan as Jack and Jill, two unhappy singletons. All they’d like is a partner – if not for life (although that would be nice) at least for a few turns on the dance floor.
But all they ever meet are oafs, sexists, sleazebags and loonies.
The thing is, we know they’re meant for each other — mostly, because in the film’s corniest moment, a random fortuneteller kind of predicts it. Each one of them will find true love, she predicts, in five days.
That, however, is when the film has to get clever. Because the trick isn’t bringing them together by the deadline, The trick is keeping them apart, as – like two partners in dance routine – they constantly come close for a few tantalizing moments, then move away.
The creative force behind the film is Malloy, a pleasant actor who’s spend a lot of time writing (and starring) in modestly budgeted genre pictures, but whose creative roots are as a dancer. Ask Me to Dance, which he wrote and directed, is his chance to show off his moves, while delivering some self-deprecating humor. (A speed-dating sequence, while hardly original, delivers some of the biggest laughs.)
Like a lot of actors turned directors, Malloy is generous to his cast, giving everyone a chance to shine. Evigan (who has a similar background in dance and horror movies– she did the Step Up franchise, but also From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series) is winsome and winning as his costar. (Malloy is also refreshingly open about casting, casually filling roles with people of all races and body types.)
Not everyone takes advantage of their chance. Julianne Arrieta is even more annoying and shrill than her best-friend part requires, and veteran Joyce DeWitt lays it on thick as a Southern granny. Also laying it on thick is Mario Cantone as a gay confidante, although he’s having so much fun you probably will too.
Which isn’t a bad way to sum up the film, There aren’t many twists and turns to it, or even many new steps. But everyone here is clearly having a good time, and hoping you will too. In the end, Ask Me to Dance is an invitation you won’t regret accepting.