Though the film's screenwriter, editors, and director seem content to present us with a near cut-and-paste style collage of scenes, stock characters, and subplots from genre film favorites, 1 Chance 2 Dance works best when it aims for mere affectionate homage (instead overwhelming tribute) in the moments it manages to break free from the pack and follow its own lead.
Yet unfortunately for director Adam Deyoe’s well-intentioned work, these stretches of spontaneity vs. Chance's safe structural choreography of scripted routine are few and far between.
Simply put, there isn’t much in Chance that we haven’t seen before... save for perhaps the poorly named villain Valerie Harper who calls to mind the actress of the same name that embodied Mary Tyler Moore’s best friend Rhoda on 1970s TV as opposed to the film’s manipulative blonde high school queen bee.
Having turned pulling the strings of everyone from boys to teachers into an art-form, the cliquish Mean Girls use their gossip fueled frenemy approach to size up the threat of the new student (likable Lexi Giovagnoli) that arrives Footloose style following a cross-country move from a big city to the small town.
Since the messy emotional weight of her parent’s recent divorce has sent her entire family reeling, the All-American new girl looks for a new way to cope with the stress by preparing for a high-profile dance competition at the school where surprisingly the performing arts usurp sports in popularity.
Most likely by now savvy viewers will have begun mentally ticking off the boxes of the multitude of movies from which Chance has drawn upon to construct its contemporary take on the same underdog/fish-out-of-water hybrid coming-of-age storylines that have propelled other films of this type since Saturday Night Fever.
Reflecting everything from Save the Last Dance to Center Stage as well as the Step Up franchise among others, 1 Chance 2 Dance comes complete with a Fame turned Glee (or now Pitch Perfect) like showcase sequence at the end.
Yet to its credit, Chance does score points for putting primary characters before performance choreography, thus managing to create a few woefully underdeveloped yet admirably serious subplots (including alcoholism and medical crises) that help anchor the film in real vs. reel life.
Additionally, our heroine’s unique sense of style (a la Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink or Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful) also echoes films of the '80s Footloose era as if perhaps they’d originally set out to make a John Hughes-like dance picture… without that much dance to otherwise propel audience interest.
Yet as terrific as a Hughes-infused dance film sounds, despite its potential, the creative gamble never pays off. From our lead’s instantly forgettable friends to the dramatically dubious nosedive the script takes in the final act during an obligatory party sequence where the actions of its core characters make absolutely no sense, Chance collapses under the weight of the movies made before it.
Still much more ambitious than your average straight-to-disc offering, Chance sets out to prove that you don’t need the big budgeted backing of High School Musical’s House of Mouse to make a teen-centric performance picture.
But given its awkward rhythm and overreliance on old footwork – instead of taking a modern freestyle approach to tell a worthwhile story – Deyoe’s Chance to Dance fails to pick up enough momentum to encourage viewers to join in.
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