Cliched dance film fails to make it happen

Make It Happen is yet another entry into the canon of inspirational dance movies, a genre arguably kickstarted by 1983’s Flashdance. Unfortunately, Make it Happen draws so heavily from previous dance films that it ends up being wholly derivative.

The clichés follow each other relentlessly. Young naïve woman arrives in the big city (Chicago ) from small town America. Young woman fails audition at prestigious dance academy and takes a filler job at a dubious nightclub to get by. Young woman is improbably befriended by denizens and employees of said nightclub and provided with a place to live and a new set of pals.

Young woman is‘accidentally’ caught practising her dance moves and is embarrassed. Young woman speedily overcomes embarrassment and begins dancing on stage at dubious nightclub. Young woman meets admiring man and begins relationship. Young woman fights with and is then reconciled with male family member. Young woman finally finds the courage to attempt audition for prestigious academy again.

It helps, somewhat, that the young woman (here named Lauryn ) is played by the relatively winsome Mary Elizabeth Winstead. However, it is unclear in the film how good a dancer Lauryn actually is, as the camera focuses on her tossing her hair and close-ups of various body parts rather than capturing the actual dance movements as a whole.

The Chicago setting is used to reasonably good effect, serving as the backdrop for a series of montage sequences featuring Lauryn dancing around city landmarks or mooching about with her new musician boyfriend. Make It Happen appears to nod in the direction of Flashdance during a scene featuring Lauryn busting some moves onstage, wearing the trademark trilby sported by Jennifer Beals in an eerily similar dance scene.

Make It Happen does attempt a feminist spin by locating the action in a female owned burlesque club, where the dancers design their own routines and are empowered by performing to a mixed audience with plenty of supportive women cheering them on each night. Yet nothing is done with this subplot following its initial introduction.

From Footloose to Dirty Dancing to Save the Last Dance and Step Up, teenage dance movies can be entertaining even while they trot out formulaic characters and set pieces. However, Make it Happen has little of the charm of its predecessors. An appealing lead actress and unexplored feminist subtext do not, unfortunately, add up to effective drama or even to particularly good dance sequences.


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