Main cast: William Ash (Danny Mitchell), Keri Russell (Lucy McLoughlin), Brian Cox (Sidney McLoughlin), Theo Fraser Steele (Oliver Parr), Tim Loane (Brother McBride), Julian Littman (Rudi Morelli), Maclean Stewart (Mickey), Joe Rea (Spike), Russell Smith (Gary), Daniel Caltagirone (Carlos Rega), and Jim Norton (Brother Xavier)
Director: John Forte
Mad About Mambo is actually a small-budgeted Irish film made in 1998 but released only this year after Keri Russell made in big in that TV series Felicity. This movie is a pretty nice movie. While it unfortunately brings on all the tired conventions of a teen romantic comedy, there is also a rather irresistible charm in the acting.
Mind you, this is another one of those Not-so-pretty underdog gets the babelicious girl fantasy, which I always feel out-of-place in a chick-flick because only men who aren't Hollywood superstars would appreciate this. It's a fantasy that seems out of place with women, since these underdogs have mostly nothing but charm to recommend them in the first place.
Anyway, I digress.
Danny wants to be a good footballer (soccer to Americans). Alas, he is also in love with rich and snotty girl about school Lucy. Lucy has a fabulous boyfriend and seemingly everything - how can Danny even come close to her?
Well, when he decides to take up dancing classes to improve his kicks, guess who ends up his dancing partner. When Lucy's boyfriend, a dance trainer, goes out of commission so close before a crucial dance competition, guess who takes his place. And ah, love.
Still, there's no surprise. Of course she will end up with him. Of course they will win. Of course there's a fat best friend of the hero for comic relief. But what made this movie from turning into an all-out snooze fest is the warm chemistry between the main players. There is some funny Irish humor (re: it's tough to be Catholics - why do you think there's someone playing a priest here?) and some nice family moments to provide some relief from the stereotypes and plot contrivances.
Mad About Mambo also has some nice genuine moments between the two young leads. Russell doesn't have much to do, actually, than to pout and wave her hair, but Ash's earnestness comes off as genuine. Danny is a nice boy who clearly deserves his happy ending, awww.
Not a bad movie at all, really.
This movie at Amazon.com
This movie at Amazon UK
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