How is it that Andrew McCarthy can make even the cheesiest, most-cliched characters sexy and romantic? He somehow manages to make Straight From the Heart (Hallmark, 2003) a must-watch movie even though I cringe through most of the dialogue and plotting. Fortunately, his latest Hallmark project keeps the romance and loses (most of) the cheese. In Come Dance With Me, McCarthy plays opposite Michelle Nolden to deliver a gentle, restrained, intensely romantic movie.
The story itself is familiar: Jack (McCarthy) is a businessman striving to push a deal through before Christmas to impress his boss and get The Big Promotion. He’s also dating the boss’s daughter who is obviously all wrong for him but refreshingly sweet . Usually the not-right-for-you character in a love triangle is so unpleasant, and often deceitful, that it’s difficult to understand why our lead is interested in them in the first place. Not so with Demi (Stephanie Mills). She’s a little flighty – sure, interested in superficial polish – yes, too young – definitely, but she’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Given a few more years to acquire some maturity, she’d be the perfect lead for her own romantic comedy.
No, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Jack and Demi are not meant to be. The real woman for Jack is Christine (Nolden), a dance instructor he meets when trying to learn to waltz so he can impress everyone (read: his boss) at the annual Christmas party. The connection is immediate, and the intimacy of waltzing gives them the opportunity to get to know each other quickly. Christine is cautious about acknowledging the spark between them, while Jack struggles with his heart and his ambitions. Then comes the inevitable obstacle: Christine’s dance studio sits in the middle of a block that a client of Jack’s is planning to demolish in order to develop the property. She wants to fight to save the building that houses so many wonderful memories, he is torn between getting that big promotion and his growing feelings for her.
It’s not all drama for Jack. There’s a bit of comedy when Jack’s mother, a fish out of water from Kansas, comes to visit, but the instinct to go over the top with the country bumpkin characterization is blessedly restrained. In fact, there’s a scene in which Kansas-native Jack defends his “flyover” home to the more worldly New Yorkers. As a Kansas native myself, I appreciate that. Come Dance With Me is a slow build, giving the characters and relationships time to breathe and discover true love. Set against the backdrop of Christmas, holiday trappings are used with a light hand – except in the case of Jack’s mom – to enhance the romance of the season.
Come Dance With Me waltzes onto The Hallmark Channel on Saturday, December 8 at 8/7c.