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Pick O' The Week: "Mad Hot Ballroom"

Mad Hot Ballroom is a cute flick. I have really never used the word "cute" before but I feel it's an appropriate word to describe the way in which this film presents itself. My buddy told me Mad Hot Ballroom was similar to Spellbound. Having thoroughly enjoyed the documentary about spelling and the kids who are good at it, I laced my sneaks and strolled over to Cumberland Cinemas to see if he was right.

Mad Hot Ballroom is not Spellbound. No. Spellbound is a barrel of laughs and, basically, a freak show captured on celluloid. You are constantly laughing at the eccentric students who converge upon Washington, DC to participate in the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. We have all known kids who spell for fun. They were losers back in school...and, dammit, they are still fun to laugh at. But despite its extensive affirmation of the oddball, Spellbound does, at times, break into moments of genuine poignancy when we become touched and moved by the innocence and intelligence of the students. If you take that small nugget purity and expand it over 105 minutes, you have, ladies and gents, Mad Hot Ballroom.

The film centers around three public schools in New York and the citywide dance competition that commences at the year's end. More than 60 public schools have adopted an after-class program designed to teach third-grade students how to dance in a variety of styles. The beauty of the program lies in its ability to turn bored and perhaps poorly behaved kids into respectable ladies and gentlemen. But, like all well-intended ventures, a competition aspect has been thrown-in along the way just to spice things up. We watch the students get prepared for the competition. We see the sweat form and the nerves shine. And then we watch these kids step up to the plate with so much courage it's frightening.

Attention, Men Who Like Women: Take a girl to see this flick. It is the perfect date movie. Little kids always seem to make women melt. I will never understand it. Kids are normally involved in mischievous acts and usually busy disturbing people who are recovering from a hard night of drinking. Kids vomit on airplanes and kick the cat and break valuables. But the ladies love them. And after watching this movie, you might want to pick one up at the pound yourself, or you might actually start hanging-out with your younger sibling. Kids are actually pretty cool sometimes. This film makes you realize that. You might also find yourself wanting to enroll in a dance class or two. I came very close to asking a grizzled man in the alley if he wanted to dance silently under the moonlight.

Mad Hot Ballroom is still playing at Cumberland, but I'm not sure how long it will be there. It's already in its sixth week! Go now! Run!

Cumberland Cinemas
159 Cumberland St. (at Avenue Rd.), Yorkville
tel. (416) 699-5971


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