When it's disco, Judge Gordon Sullivan ducks.
"Wow, disco sucks."—Michael, the hunky club owner
Is MTV still relevant? I watched semi-regularly in the late Nineties, when there was still a decent chance of seeing something music-related being shown rather than the same endless reality programming that I saw the last time I flipped past. I don't want to turn this into a rant about MTV's obsolescence, really, but a film like Turn the Beat Around makes me wonder. On the one hand at least it's a music-related undertaking, but on the other, there's no reason I can see why MTV needed to get into the film business if Turn the Beat Around is going to be the result.
Turn the Beat Around, is a melodrama based around Zoe (Romina D'Ugo, How She Move), a young dancer trying to make it in the competitive world of dance. She meets nightclub owner Michael (David Giuntoli, Weather Girl), and her charm convinces him that his new nightclub should have a disco theme. Rather than sink all his dough into the risky venture of bringing disco back, Michael hires Zoe as a "disco expert" to host a party at the new location to test the idea. She brings along a number of people from the dance world, including her boyfriend, and rival choreographer Malika (Brooklyn Sudano, Alone in the Dark II). Things heat up and betrayal is the order of the day as relationship disintegrate and alliances are formed to that banging disco beat.
I was not initially disposed to enjoy Turn the Beat Around. I don't like disco, dance films, or melodramatic relationship films. However, Turn the Beat Around was almost immediately disarming. No, I didn't actually end up enjoying the film very much, but I can say I didn't hate it with the vehemence I expected given the subject matter. That's down to two things. First, the actors all give it their best, and on the whole, their best is actually pretty good. The dance sequences are ably executed, while the likeable characters seem likeably and the unsympathetic ones are sufficiently unsympathetic. Second, the plot throws in so many different points that something's bound to stick. We've got the dreamer-given-her-big-shot plot, the boyfriend-jealous-of-the-rich-guy plot, the is-the-rich-guy-giving-me-my-shot-because-I'm-hot plot, and many more. It's like six movies for the price of one.
Of course all these different plots end up being the film's major downfall as well. There's simply too much going on in Turn the Beat Around for the audience to get their bearings. It takes a little while for the story to gear up, but once it does the film burns through plot points like a disco inferno. All these plot points come at the expense of character, so Zoe, Michael, and Malika are little more than stereotypical outlines to move the audience through the typical dance-rivals plot. When things start to go wrong it's hard to want to follow all the crossings and double-crossings because it's hard to care about the characters. Because Michael and Zoe's boyfriend are each equally shallow in their characterization, I didn't know who I should be rooting for in Zoe's affections. Also, while Malika is obviously the "bad guy," she and Zoe are both so cookie-cutter that I didn't care that Malika was so willing to step all over Zoe.
MTV brings Turn the Beat Around to DVD in a decent, if not spectacular, package. The video transfer is fine, but the film has a slightly low-budget look to that is probably not the fault of the transfer. The audio is okay, but considering this is a dance flick, I expected a little more play from the subwoofer, although dialogue was always well mixed. Extras include a few minutes of deleted scenes that all run together with very little context and a short making-of that does a decent job showing the work that went into bringing Turn the Beat Around to the screen.
I have no desire to see disco make a comeback, but Turn the Beat Around does a competent job bringing the idea into a narrative film. The story tries too hard to give the typical dance-rivalry plot romantic trappings, but the sincere performances keep this one from being a complete waste of time. I think that Turn the Beat Around will probably meet the expectations of anyone picking up an MTV neo-disco DVD.
Turn the Beat Around doesn't quite get a full revolution, but it's not guilty.
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