Centre Stage: Turn It Up

Starring Rachele Brooke Smith, Kenny Wormald, Peter Gallagher, Ethan Stiefel. Directed by Steven Jacobson
Running Time: 94 mins
Rated: Rated M (infrequent coarse language).
The first Centre Stage movie in 2000 was, if memory serves, an inconsequential but amiable dance/romance, which piled movie cliché upon movie cliché in its story of a girl burning to be a ballerina. This follow-up (hardly a sequel, because it's new characters) does not tamper with the formula. Yes, it's about another girl burning to be a ballerina.
Those of us who have been moviegoing for decades will have seen all its scenes before in any number of flicks about dancers/actors/singers, but the young female audience of today, at which it is squarely aimed, may well find it fresh and appealing. The two leads, Rachele Brooke Smith (as Kate Parker) and Kenny Wormald (Tommy Anderson), are certainly as good-looking and clean-cut as Hollywood can make 'em.
We're at the fictitious American Ballet Academy in Manhattan again, presided over by Jonathan Reeves (Peter Gallagher), where star dancer Cooper Nielson is back as principal teacher. So much for the leftovers from the first film. Auditioning for the places at the school are Kate from Detroit, who taught herself to dance by watching videos (!), and Tommy, who came to ballet via a hockey background (!).
Tommy is accepted, but Kate is nosed out by snooty Suzanne von Stroh (Sarah Jayne Jensen), whose rich daddy is a big benefactor of the arts. Kate doesn't want to return home a failure, because her little sister is counting on her, so she takes a job waitressing at The Foundry, a nightclub where she dazzles patrons with her moves in the sort of street dancing that owes more to acrobatics and calisthenics than yer actual terpsichore (echoes of Flashdance among others).
Tommy goes to her for extra tutelage (!) and they fall in love. But snooty Suzanne, his dance partner at the Academy, wants Tommy for herself. What will win out - hip-hop or entrechat? There are no prizes for guessing, but at least we should be grateful that Suzanne does not break her leg in an accident, requiring Kate to step into the breach and save the performance: that is the one cliché you won't find in Karen Bloch's script.
The whole thing is dedicated to the dubious proposition, beloved by Hollywood, that all you need to make your dream come true is to want it badly enough.
Many of the cast are newcomers to acting, and the performances tend to be pretty one-dimensional. But the young dancer/actors were well picked for their roles, and Melbourne-born director Steven Jacobson (resident in the US, who was second unit director on Dreamgirls) handles it briskly and efficiently.
The film is screening digitally in selected cinemas, and the sound is particularly impressive - not just the music, but the clarity of the dialogue recording.
Sony Pictures Out October 30

Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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