Movie Review: “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” is far from light on its feet

The dust rises in puffy clouds over every scene in the limply-named “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.” To call this comedy old fashioned, old school or just old and creaky doesn’t do this fusty farce justice. Even the cobwebs have cobwebs.
Cheyenne Jackson steps out of the shadows of supporting roles (he was a regular, for a while, on “30 Rock”) as Michael, a crude, cranky at-home dance instructor working Ground Zero of Florida’s retirement mecca — St. Petersburg and environs.
His off-color cracks don’t fly with his new customer, Mrs. Harrison (the great Gena Rowlands, of “The Notebook”).
“Just gotta get used to my sense of humor,” he explains.
“DO I?”
They don’t get along, and don’t set off much in the way of sparks, either. Michael’s gay, bitter about his work situation and touchy about Mrs. Harrison’s Southern Baptist bonafides. But he needs the job.
“We got off on the wrong foot.”
“I have a feeling you spend all DAY on that foot!”
And on it goes, this snappy repartee that’s some screenwriters’ idea of what the hip AARP set would find “with it” and “happening.” A few smart observations about ageing sneak into the bland banter.
“People start to disappear when they get older,” as in “nobody notices you.” Seniors of a certain age are living day to day, “people trying to make an interesting day for ourselves.” Michael is a compulsive, impulsive liar, and Mrs. Harrison won’t tolerate that. But she has secrets of her own.
Rowlands works at something like half-speed, here, something highlighted by a few on-the-phone arguments with that firecracker Rita Moreno as an irritable elderly neighbor.
Jackson tries too hard in almost every scene. Michael’s tin-eared cracks — about jitterbugging turning Mrs. Harrison into “a loose G.I. groupie” — “You’ll be waking up in the barracks tomorrow!” — feel sitcom trite and a little desperate.
Few studios bother to finance films for an older audience, and the films themselves too often make the mistakes “Six Dance Lessons” does. Your audience and your stars may move a lot slower. That doesn’t mean your movie should.

MPAA rating: Unrated, with profanity, innuendo

Cast: Gena Rowlands, Cheyenne Jackson, Rita Moreno, Jackie Weaver, Julian Sands, Anthony Zerbe

Credits: Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, screenplay by Richard Alfieri. A Dada release.

Running time: 1:47

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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