RAZZLE DAZZLE: A JOURNEY INTO DANCE
The seriously politically correct dance school teacher Mr Jonathon (Ben Miller), is once again in fierce competition with 5-time champion Miss Elizabeth (Jane Hall) and her troupe of littlies, in the Sanosafe Troupe Spectacular. This time a documentary crew follows the preparations, which shows the determination of young dancer Tenille's (Shayni Notelovitz) mum Justine (Kerry Armstrong), who will stop at nothing to ensure her daughter is on the winning team - and in a leading role. Mr Jonathon is helped by his assistant Barbara (Denise Roberts) and wardrobe queen Marianne (Tara Morice), preparing the troupe to face the judges (Noelene Browne, Toni Lamond, Leo Sayer) on the big night.
Review by Louise Keller:
Winning at any cost is the theme of Razzle Dazzle, a quirky, feel-good comedy that shuffles high kicks, an obsessed stage mother and two dance teachers with conflicting philosophies. Mockumentary in style, the film's tone is coated with biting black humour that lends to an inward chuckle rather than a hearty laugh. Writer Director Darren Ashton (Thunderstruck) takes us into two dance studios, where we meet the teachers, the dancers, the parents and some hangers on in the lead up to the finals of a prestigious dance competition.
English actor Ben Miller plays Mr Jonathon, a caring but rather eccentric teacher with an offbeat notion of incorporating current affairs and issues into his choreography. His offsider is Tara Morice's goth costume designer Marianne, one of whose wacky ideas of using a gas mask costume, results in the child passing out. Tenille (Shayni Notelovitz) is the star pupil, through whom her pushy mother Justine (Kerry Armstrong) lives out her own unfulfilled ambitions. Squeezed into tiny mini skirts and weighed down by a mountain of long, wavy hair, Armstrong is a knock out, as the obsessed stage mum who battles anything and everyone who gets in her daughter's limelight. Competing is serious business, and Jane Hall's Miss Elizabeth (Mr Jonathon's chief competitor) is a teacher with purist, traditional views. Her students are schooled in the art of big smiles (even when you lose) and wear costumes that look like pink lollypops, bunnies and foxy ladies.
We are there for the rehearsals, the private coaching and the ups and downs of home life. There are fears and tears as The Grand Finale draws near and the pressure mounts. And then at last the anxiously awaited day arrives. The curtain rises and Barry Crocker's pony-tailed compere, Donnie Destry, meets and greets. The judges are winners, too. There's visiting celebrity Leo Sayer, tight-lipped Noelene Brown and knockout Toni Lamond, wearing a blonde wig that looks as though it came from Les Girls. Then it is time for the final routines... and a few surprises. If you've got it, flaunt it. Yes indeed. Or Razzle Dazzle 'em. This family-friendly comedy from producers Andrena Finlay and Al Clark's Wildheart Productions is a winner, a fresh and funny insight into kids' competition dancing and all that goes with it.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There isn't any figure in showbiz who generates the instant dread that a stage mother generates, and conversely, there isn't a child performer who doesn't capture our attention - for one reason or another. In Razzle Dazzle, we have the pleasure of satire targeting the former and genuine respect embracing the latter.
Director Darren Ashton has helped his top cast deliver beautifully judged performances which demonstrate how important in comedy it is to find the truth rather than overplay for comedy.
Kerry Armstrong is a deliciously awful stage mother, balancing truthful observation with a marvellous sense of satirical comedy. Jane Hall is not far behind her as the snooty, self-congratulatory, dance mistress and Ben Miller as the long suffering competitor who always loses out, despite - or perhaps because of - his ardent need to create politically relevant and correct routines. Like the one he nurtures for the grand final of the regional championships, which explores the oppressed Afghan women being free to dance...."If they can't dance, we can dance for them..."
And the dance troupes of youngsters show that they can indeed dance, another critical element that makes the movie work: the kids are talented and they are treated with respect, which transfers the satire neatly onto the adults. Indeed, the film's primary target audience is adults, not kiddies.
I was intrigued by the screenplay's handling of the focal dance routine at the grand finals, involving the burka and the notion of liberating Muslim women from it to express freedom through dance. Will this film ignite a socio-political, inter-faith storm?
To me, this edgy element adds to what is an entertaining, funny film, with something to say just below the surface; Razzle Dazzle is a delight.
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RAZZLE DAZZLE: A JOURNEY INTO DANCE (PG)
CAST: Kerry Armstrong, Jane Hall, Ben Miller, Toni Lamond, Nadine Garner, Noelene Browne, Denise Roberts, Tara Morice, Barry Crocker, Paul Mercurio, Steve LeMarquand
PRODUCER: Andrena Finlay, Jodi Matterson
DIRECTOR: Darren Ashton
SCRIPT: Robin Ince, Carolyn Wilson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Garry Phillips
EDITOR: Julie-Ann De Ruvo
MUSIC: Roger Mason
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Karen Harborow
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 15, 2007