Perhaps they should’ve called it Bend it like Baryshnikov. In writer/director John Forte’s formulaic yet delightful Irish sleeper, inspired by a new Brazilian addition to the Belfast United, a teenage aspiring “footballer” (a.k.a. soccer player to us Yanks) from West Belfast decides that the answer to improving his game lies in getting rhythm while turning the beat around via ballroom lessons.
Of course, it helps matters when he realizes that it’s a great way to meet girls, especially the most talented girl in the class, the wealthy Protestant Lucy McLoughlin (Keri Russell), who spoiled and snobbish, not to mention steadily dating the handsome Oliver (Theo Fraser Steele) tries to ignore the lower class, Catholic newcomer.
However, after a friendly soccer game played by the boys leaves Oliver with an injured foot just before the local professional competition, Lucy changes her tune enough to let the new lad Danny Mitchell (William Ash) serve as her partner.
Although she tells him that this arrangement is strictly platonic and professional, head-over-soccer-shoes Danny tries his best to charm the lass but mostly succeeds in winning over her successful businessman father Sidney (an amusing Brian Cox) before his daughter predictably succumbs.
Despite a few overly predictable plot points and the fact that this copycat film will never feel as fresh as those that came before it such as the brilliant Breaking Away by Peter Yates, writer/director John Forte’s film has enough charm to go around thanks not only to the likable leads but also a great supporting turn by Maclean Stewart as Danny’s best mate Mickey who aspires to be a fashion designer.
Produced by Gabriel Byrne and inaccurately called Mad About Mambo when the dance performed throughout is the samba, Forte’s film is sure to delight teen audiences and admirers of the beautiful Russell.