Shall We Dance (1996) Movie Review

Shall We DansuShall We Dance?

  • Rating – PG
  • January 1996 (Japan)
  • Director – Masayuki
  • Koji Yakusho – Shohei Sugiyama
  • Tamiyo Kusakari – Mai Kishikawa
  • Naoto – Tomio Aoki
  • Eri Watanabe – Toyoko Takahashi
  • Yu Tokui – Tokichi Hattori


You Want Dance Lessons

Shall We Dance is a 1996 Japanese drama / comedy, which won 14 Japanese Academy Awards.  It also spawned an American version under the same name starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon in 2004.  Let’s see if this film will make you want to dance.  Yes, I know, that was horrible.  I’m working on it.  On a side note, I watched the U.S release of the film, which is 17 minutes shorter than the Japanese release.  Mai teaching the students

With Your Fussy Little Steps

Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yaksho) is a hard working accountant for a company in Japan.  He has a loving wife, a teenage daughter, and recently has bought a home.  Even with all this, Shohei feels like he is stuck in a rut, which causes him to fall in a state of depression.

One day coming home on the subway, he sees a beautiful lady with a gloomy expression looking throughout a window.  This lady happens to be Mai Kishikawa (Tamiyo Kusakari), a well known dancer in the ballroom circuit.  Shohei becomes very interested in her and decides to take dance lessons in hopes to be introduced to Mai.  Will Mai become Shohei’s dance teacher?  Will Shohei ever get out of his rut?  *Normally, I’ll go a little further to set up the plot, but I try not to have any spoilers in my reviews, and a couple of things do happen after Shohei enters the dance studio.*

Shohei and Toyoko dancing
Feel the Music and Dance for Sheer Joy

Shall We Dance is a surprising treat.  Let’s talk about the story.  The premise is not the most original.  You know the one where the middle aged family man that is successful at his job, and is depressed, but sparks interest in a younger beautiful woman.  It works with a good script, vibrant characters, and spot on acting.

The characters in Shall We Dance, especially in the dance school have great personality.  Not all of them are likeable at first, but it’s great to see them grow and break through their own personal barriers.  The movie does manage to juggle the side characters well and makes you interested in the ones they focus on.

The acting was great all around, but Naoto Takenaka as the socially awkward office employee to the creepy long haired ballroom dancer was very amusing to watch.  When he turned into his alter ego as a ballroom dancer, was where he shined the most.  It was just an entertaining visual when he dances.

Aoki over the top dancing
Well Done

Shall We Dance is just one of those movies, where it has a great story to tell.  Even though the movie is called Shall We Dance, the focus isn’t about dancing.  It’s more about self discovery.  It’s a charming story with lots to like with Shohei trying to find himself.  You might even find yourself tapping your feet to the mood setting musical score.  It’s hard to categorize this movie, but I would say it’s a drama with some comic relief throw in.  It’s a required watch or even a DVD buy.  Shall We Dance?  Yes, we shall.  Ya, still working on it.

Random Info I got from this File:
  • Don’t practice dancing in the bathroom
  • Never call your dance class mate an old fat bat
  • Wearing a wig during a dance competition is not a good idea
Other Files to check:
  • Billy Elliot
  • Shall We Dance (U.S. version)
File Status: 9 out of 10
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Graphic designer by day, and movie blogger whenever I can. Been watching films in the 80s and never lost the love for it. Started Movie Case Files in 2012, and kept writing random reviews ever since. Besides movies, I like watching UFC, collecting retro video games, spending time with the wife, and bacon.

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