Thursday, August 23, 2007

Razzle Dazzle

Returning to more normal Film Festival offerings...

Razzle Dazzle is an Australian mockumentary about a kids' dance competition. In an odd piece of casting, it stars the English comedian Ben Miller as Mr Jonathan, a well-meaning underdog dance teacher who persists in trying to introduce politics to the world of kiddie choreography. As you'd expect with these things, the plot follows Jonathan and his girls as they make it to the final against more conventional opposition and, ultimately, win.

It's okay. But it's not great, and the bar for mockumentaries has been set at an awfully high level. There are plenty of good moments, and the kids are consistently excellent. We were told before the screening that they hadn't been given a script but were simply told to react appropriately to the dance teachers. If true, that's pretty impressive, because it means that some of them are improvising better dialogue than the adult actors.

On the other hand, it's formulaic, and it doesn't quite hang together as a whole. The ridiculousness of Jonathan's choreography is undermined when we're shown clips of the other competing troupes, many of whom seem to be every bit as silly. The best thing in the film is a subplot about Tanille, the little girl whose mother has big plans for her - but (a) she's a stock "pushy stage mother" character, and (b) it's hard to imagine why somebody so obsessed with their daughter's career would enrol her with Jonathan in the first place. She's there because the writers want her there, even though logic screams that she should be with the more conventional rival school.

It's okay, and I kept rooting for it to be better, but it just doesn't quite make it.