Lionsgate // 1992 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // May 15th, 2013
"Son can I bend your ear for a tick?"
Strictly Ballroom is a gem, a unifying movie which appeals to a broad range of people. It's a great introduction to director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!).
Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio, Adrenalin Junkies) is poised to win The Pan Pacific Grand Prix with partner Liz Holt (Gia Carides, East of Everything). The only problem is he doesn't want to dance strictly ballroom steps. Enter Fran (Tara Morice, Dance Academy), a beginner student at the studio where Scott trains, who's open to the more "crowd-pleasing" steps Scott wants to incorporate into his routine. They begin to dance together and it's a tale as old as time from then on. No, not Beauty and the Beast but rather The Ugly Duckling as seen through the world of competitive ballroom dancing.
Strictly Ballroom has finally been given the Blu-ray treatment. I wondered how long it was going to be before I could upgrade my DVD and finally that time is nigh. Apparently part of the reason for the long wait was the need for Baz Luhrmann to have another movie due to open, since the cover art proudly proclaims this to be from the director of The Great Gatsby.
I enjoy a good romantic comedy and a well-written script that keeps me entertained and talking about the movie long after the final credits have rolled. Strictly Ballroom offers this and more, with subplots about the nature of family and the cost of (not) following your dreams. While most of the film hits the beats you expect, branching out to include Fran's and Scott's families means we get some magical moments.
Anyone who's ever seen this film would be hard-pressed to deny the heart and soul is actually to be found in the character of Doug Hastings (Barry Otto, Australia), Scott's father. Otto's range, from meek to campy to determined, grounds the film and keeps the momentum going. While the other actors are very convincing in their roles and I have no complaints about any of their performances, Otto's is the one which threatens to steal the entire film.
I was able to compare the original DVD release to the Blu-ray and I'm happy to report a better picture with the Blu-ray. The soft picture looks sharper and the colors also are much crisper without any leaching. The audio is improved as well, which is wonderful news because Strictly Ballroom features lovely songs and a score which deserves to be heard across multiple channels. The DTS-HD option really broadens the track and I was quite pleased with it.
My only gripe? There are no new special features, they're all ported over from the original DVD release as well as the subsequent Special Edition release. They are: "Samba to Slow Fox Dance" and "Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen" featurettes, "Design Gallery with narration", and a deleted scene. Also included is the audio commentary with Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin and John O'Connell. I had hoped this Blu-ray would include a new commentary track from Mercurio and Morice, but alas.
This is one of the few movies my entire family adores and it's easy to see why. With a witty script filled with a colorful cast of characters showcased in Technicolor splendor, it balances a love story against the backdrop of the world of competitive ballroom dance. All the elements combine to make Strictly Ballroom not only my favorite Baz Luhrmann movie but one of my favorite movies overall. I recommend a purchase.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scene
* Photo Gallery