Razzle Dazzle: A Journey into Dance Review
Australia, the present day. “Mr Jonathon” (Ben Miller) runs a dance school which is not your average establishment. He and his pupils specialise in dance routines that illustrate issues such as world hunger, animal experimentation, climate change, Third World sweatshops and the situation of women under the Taliban. Their rivals are the much more traditional Miss Elizabeth’s Dance Troupe. But who will triumph at the Sanosafe Troupe Spectacular, the country’s most prestigious dance competition?
Told in mock-documentary style, with captions and interviews to camera, is Razzle Dazzle: A Journey into Dance (to give it its full onscreen title) certainly a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half, even if it does tread familiar ground. Even in its own country’s cinema, Strictly Ballroom - which was itself part-mockumentary – looms particularly large. Not to mention films like Drop Dead Gorgeous. So, no marks for originality then. However, the script (by Carolyn Wilson and Robin Ince) contains some pleasingly tart dialogue. This being Australia, the humour is distinctly black-shaded, as much as possible while still retaining a PG certificate.
The film’s performances are its strongest suit. Ben Miller is fine as the “cause slut” dance teacher, while Kerry Armstrong steals the show (and gained an AFI Award nomination) as the ultimate pushy stage mother. Further down the cast list, Nadine Garner and Tara Morice are given less to do. Morice was of course the female lead in Strictly Ballroom (apart from her turn as a teenage Satanist in Metal Skin, she hasn’t done much of note since for the cinema) and her co-star, Paul Mercurio, makes a brief appearance as himself. Also appearing are Barry Crocker (with ponytailed white hair and a beard, looking nothing like Barry McKenzie these days) and, as himself, Leo Sayer.
Director Darren Ashton departs from the usual mockumentary style by not overdoing the handheld camerawork. Garry Phillips’s HD-originated camerawork ensures the film is good to look at, and Ariane Weiss’s eye-poppingly colourful costumes gained her another AFI nomination. A third went to Roger Mason and Green Dragon for their music score.
Razzle Dazzle won’t change your life, but it moves along at a fast clip, isn’t mean-spirited and is continually amusing. You can do far worse, especially for a family audience.
Razzle Dazzle is released on a single-layered disc encoded for Regions 2 and 4 only.
The DVD transfer is in the original ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Razzle Dazzle was shot on HD video before being transferred to 35mm for cinema prints, and this DVD was presumably mastered from a HD source. It’s very colourful, though given the HD lensing a little soft. That’s not an inappropriate look for a comedy, so I can’t object too much, but maybe a second layer would have allowed a higher bitrate and maybe a sharper transfer. It’s certainly not a bad one, but could have been better – with the proviso that I didn’t see Razzle Dazzle in the cinema.
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. It’s a mix that goes for the directional effects and ambience to enhance the documentary effect. Traffic goes past in your surround speakers in the dance studio scenes. The performance sequences sound very good too, with the subwoofer helping out on the bass lines. Three sets of subtitles are available for the feature, but it’s English only (non-hard-of-hearing) for the extras. On the feature, the hard-of-hearing subtitles appear on a black background. There is also an English audio-descriptive soundtrack, also in Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras are very minor – a making-of (6:02) and a look at the work of hair and makeup artist Troy Follington (1:33). The lengths of these items will tell you how in-depth they are. The extras are completed by trailers for Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost, Daddy Day Camp, Shredderman Rules!, The Last Day of Summer, The Water Horse and Saarwariya, but not one for Razzle Dazzle itself.