Save the Last Dance enjoyed a profitable release in early 2001, with box-office earnings that exceeded anyone's expectations. Its performance illustrates the staying power of a formulaic movie that avoids the pitfalls and clichés that would otherwise render it forgettable. Since there's nothing new here, you'll appreciate the original quirks in a character-based plot that's just around the corner from Flashdance, and just as familiar. Sara (Julia Stiles) gave up a promising ballet career when her mother was killed while rushing to attend her daughter's crucial audition to Juilliard; Sara blames herself for the accident, and at her new, mostly African American high school in Chicago, she's uncertain of her future. Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) has no such doubts; his own future is bright, and his attraction to Sara is immediate; they connect (predictably), and Sara's dormant funk emerges, with Derek's coaching, as she learns hip-hop dancing in a local club. Obligatory subplots are equally routine: Derek's sister (Kerry Washington) is a single mom struggling with her child's absentee father; Derek's best friend (Fredro Starr) feels trapped in his gangsta lifestyle; and Sara's once-estranged father (Terry Kinney) is doing his best to correct past mistakes. Within the confines of this standard follow-your-dream drama, director Thomas Carter capitalizes on a script that allows these characters to be real, intelligent, and thoughtful about their lives and their futures. It's obvious that Stiles's dancing was intercut with that of a professional double, but that illusion hardly matters when the rest of the movie's so earnestly positive and genuine. --Jeff Shannon
How you doin'?
Why don't you ask how your son is doing? Thats a line you havn't tried in a while.
Why you always gotta jump off on my like that?
Why you gotta be like you are?
Ah, come on, you know you wanna dance with me. Thats what you came here for, to yell at me, and to dance with me.