DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Baz Luhrmann
Paul Mercurio, Bill Hunter, Tara Morice, Gia Carides, Pat Thomson, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto
Writing Credits:
Andrew Bovell (earlier screenplay), Baz Luhrmann (and story), Craig Pearce

A life lived in fear ... is a life half lived.

From Baz Luhrmann, the director of the award-winning hits Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! comes the hilariously funny romantic comedy that will leave you singing, laughing and cheering for more. Experience the magical story of a championship ballroom dancer who's breaking all the rules in a fantastic new special edition, complete with never-before-seen bonus features! A hit with fans and critics all across the globe, Strictly Ballroom will hold you tight and dance straight into your heart. Revisit this high-stepping comedy classic with a new and exclusive documentary, featuring Baz Luhrmann and his close collaborators discussing the extraordinary journey of the film. In a fabulous special edition, it's a dream come true!

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$11.738 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/23/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Baz Luhrmann, Production Designer/Co-Costume Designer Catherine Martin and Choreographer John (Cha Cha) O’Connell
• “Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen” Featurette
• “Samba to Slow Fox” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Design Gallery
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Strictly Ballroom: Special Edition (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 99, 2009)

Back in the early 90s, I maintained a part-time job as a waiter while I went through grad school. This meant I spent virtually every weekend night at the restaurant, and I developed a ritual that I enjoyed. A local second-run movie theater ran midnight showings on weekends, so I’d head over whenever something new hit the joint.

One weekend, I planned to see a movie whose title now escapes me. However, I didn’t read the showtime schedule closely enough, and it turns out the theater didn’t run it as a midnight screening.

Because I simply enjoyed the experience of a movie on the big screen, I decided to see something else instead. As I recall, I’d already viewed two of the three flicks showing at midnight, but the third was new to me.

As you’ve probably guessed, that movie was 1992’s Strictly Ballroom, and I was none too happy about its presence on the midnight roster. The film looked awful to me, but I so wanted to see something that night that I decided to check it out anyway. Hey, the movie might stink, but at least I’d enjoy my popcorn!

To my immense surprise, I actually rather liked Ballroom. 18 years later, I figured it was time to give it a second viewing and find out if it still works for me.

Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) comes from a long line of ballroom dancers, and he earns many a trophy with his own talents. However, when he spreads his wings and uses unorthodox steps that aren’t “strictly ballroom”, he receives condemnation from the establishment and his abrasive mother Shirley (Pat Thomson), though his meek father Doug (Barry Otto) harbors a secret admiration for his son’s work.

We learn more about that as the film progresses, but in the meantime, Scott’s partner Liz (Gia Carides) dumps him for star dancer Ken Railings (John Hannan). This leaves Scott in need of a new dance partner, and he ends up with ugly duckling Fran (Tara Morice). They learn how to work together – and perhaps become more than just dance partners.

If you seek a movie experience that delivers an original tale, you’ll want to avoid Ballroom. As you can probably glean from the synopsis, it tends to gather influences and wear them on its sleeve. Cinderella becomes a dominant notion, and we see signs of other tales like Romeo and Juliet.

Despite the strong influence of these other tales, one shouldn’t view Ballroom as a simple conglomeration of inspirations. While it does take a lot from other sources, it manages to create something reasonably individual. Sure, you see the influences, but you don’t feel smothered by them, as director Baz Luhrmann manages to put his own spin on them.

Which is what helps Ballroom overcome its modest origins. Perhaps its greatest strength comes from its inherent sweetness. While it deals with the absurdity of the competitive dancing scene and dabbles in some nasty characters, it focuses enough on the two pure spirits at its core. Scott and Fran like to dance for its own sake; unlike virtually everyone else involved, they don’t care about praise and success as much as they embrace art.

That concept could make Ballroom sappy and saccharine, but Luhrmann doesn’t allow it to fall into that trap. Instead, it feels genuine and joyous, at least when it allows its leads to enjoy themselves. The participants demonstrate a real affection for what they do, so the audience embraces them and their dancing.

Of course, the story can’t be that simple, so the attempts at dramatic tension – mostly represented by Scott’s mom’s work to make him a champion in her preferred image – become a necessity. At times these threads feel forced, but I see them as an important factor. Without the opposition, there’d be no tension, so as overwrought as Scott’s mom and the others can be, they’re useful.

Ballroom does alter the standard Cinderella template in one way: it may be the only film in cinema history to deliver a pre-makeover heroine who genuinely looks awful. As lampooned in flicks like Not Another Teen Movie, usually the “ugly girl” is quite attractive but just a little mousy.

That’s not Fran. When we first see her, she appears genuinely unattractive. We don’t see a cute girl waiting to emerge; we just observe a spotty, gawky skank.

Who then cleans up nicely, but not absurdly nicely. Fran becomes pretty but not a super beauty queen. I like that the movie gives her a realistic makeover and doesn’t stretch credulity.

Not that Ballroom attempts a realistic tale. At times it favors a documentary style, but that’s just a conceit; much of it tends toward the broad and absurd. It meshes its choices well, however, and ends up as a sweet, endearing underdog piece.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Strictly Ballroom appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie came with an erratic, unexceptional transfer.

Sharpness became one of the many up and down elements. Close-ups looked fine, and occasional wide shots seemed decent. However, much of the flick came across as a bit soft and indistinct; these concerns were never extreme, but a lot of the movie appeared somewhat mushy. No issues with jaggies or shimmering materialized, but some artifacting occurred, and the image could be a bit blocky. At least I didn’t see any edge haloes, and source flaws remained absent; the film could be grainy but no specks, marks or other concerns materialized.

With its lavish costumes and vivid dance settings, Ballroom arrived with a bubbly palette. Unfortunately, the DVD didn’t replicate it terribly well. At best, the colors appeared reasonably lively, but they usually seemed somewhat runny and oversaturated. The hues weren’t bad, but they should’ve been better. Blacks were passable, while shadows tended to be a little flat. Though I thought the transfer improved as the movie progressed, it remained pretty mediocre.

While not exceptional, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Ballroom suited the material. As expected, music dominated the proceedings. The songs and score offered nice stereo presence and also offered a smidgen of spread to the surrounds. That was the most obvious element, though some effects appeared in the rear and back speakers as well. None of these added much more than ambience, but they contributed a bit of environment to the proceedings.

Audio quality seemed fine. Music remained the most significant element, and that side of things sounded decent. The score and songs could’ve been a bit more dynamic, but they showed acceptable vivacity.

Speech was similarly decent. Some of the lines were a little reedy, but they were reasonably natural and they lacked edginess. Effects stayed a minor aspect of the mix but demonstrated fair clarity and range. While nothing here stood out as memorable, the audio suited the story.

When we shift to the set’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director/co-writer Bax Luhrmann, production designer/co-costume designer Catherine Martin and choreographer John (Cha Cha) O’Connell. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project's origins and development, choreography and costumes, cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematic styles, and the film's reception.

Though not without a few lulls, the commentary usually moves at a nice clip. Luhrmann dominates, but the other two get in plenty of remarks as well. They combine to make this a useful, engaging piece with lots of good info.

Two featurettes follow. Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen goes for 23 minutes, 20 seconds and includes comments from Luhrmann, Martin, executive producer Antoinette Albert, and producer Tristram Miall. The show examines the project’s stage roots and path to the cinema as well as casting, dancing, and its release. I’m not wild about the program’s quirky visual style, but it includes a lot of good information, so it’s well worth your time.

Samba to Slow Fox lasts 30 minutes, 15 seconds and features various real-life ballroom dancers. We get their thoughts on the dancing scene and see many examples of competitions. This offers a nice glimpse of the real world behind the movie’s fiction.

One Deleted Scene runs one minute, 56 seconds. It shows an additional attempt to get Scott to dump Fran for another partner. It seems fairly redundant, as we already have enough pressure on Scott, though it does tell us a little more about how Scott’s choice might impact the family business.

Finally, we get a Design Gallery. This delivers montages via five smaller areas: “Backstage Snapshots” (2 minutes, 21 seconds), “Production Design” (0:18), “Promotional and Various” (1:36), “Baz’s Family Album” (0:46), and “Scott and Fran” (1:11). Along with the images, we hear comments from Luhrmann and Martin for all the compilations except “Design”. I’m not a huge fan of running photo montages, but the addition of the commentary brings worth. We get many good shots; I especially like the ads in “Promotional” and the old snaps in “Album”.

The disc opens with ads for Tron: Legacy, Step Up 3 and The Switch. Under Sneak Peeks, it also throws in promos for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, You Again, and Miramax Films. No trailer for Ballroom appears here.

Strictly Ballroom came as a pleasant surprise 18 years ago, and it continues to entertain. The movie’s not my normal cup of tea, but I see it as a fun, sweet appreciation of dance as an art. The DVD provides average picture, decent audio and a pretty good collection of supplements. This isn’t a particularly strong DVD, but the film’s enjoyable enough to earn my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
1 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main