Boy from a hard-working immigrant family becomes a dance instructor in a rehab facility & is soon entering competitions with a patient who was once a professional dancer. Predictable yes, but Seidelman & her charming cast actually pull it off.
Director Susan Seidelman’s latest film is thin but enjoyable.
“Armando” (E.J. Bonilla) is boy from a hard-working immigrant family who wants to be a dancer. Enthralled by “Mia” (Leah Pipes), the lovely leading lady he meets at a Manhattan dance studio, Armando hovers around on the sidelines watching and learning. Then tragedy strikes, and Mia is confined to a wheelchair.
This is Armando’s chance! He starts teaching dance moves to some of the other patients in Mia’s rehab facility, and before you know it, they’re all competing in a dance competition.
As ridiculous as this premise may be, Seidelman and her charming leads actually pull it off. Bonilla is very sweet as Armando, and even though everything he says and does is totally predictable from the get go, he throws himself into the part with genuine emotion and works hard to win us over. Pipes must do a bit more acting, transforming from someone who takes her grace and beauty very much for granted. But we want to root for Mia, so we give Pipes the benefit of the doubt. When they are together, Armando and Mia make a charming couple. Even on the dance floor–with Pipes confined to her wheelchair–they are graceful and elegant, perfectly-paired ballroom dance partners.
Unfortunately, all the other characters come from Central Casting, with Priscilla Lopez particularly ill-used as “Isabel,” the sterotypical Latina Mamma from Hell… oops, I mean the Bronx. And almost as bad is Laverne Cox as “Chantelle,” a character whose personality is way too big for this tiny frame.
But while this film will never become a cult favorite like Seidelman’s much-loved Desperately Seeking Susan, Musical Chairs is vibrantly colorful with a satisfying beat. So see it just for the fun of it.
Photo Credits: Thomas LeGoff/Paladin Pictures