Save the Last Dance (2001)

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Released 10-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Thomas Carter (Director)
Deleted Scenes-4
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Save The Last Dance-A Retrospective
Music Video-Crazy - K-CI & Jo Jo
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 108:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (46:16) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Thomas Carter

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Julia Stiles
Sean Patrick Thomas
Terry Kinney
Fredro Starr
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Mark Isham

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I really enjoy pictures about people striving to become dancers. I'm not sure why. They have something in common with movies about sports - people striving to wring the very last from their bodies, I guess, and that's inspirational. There aren't very many movies of this kind. The ones which come to mind are Flashdance, and Stayin' Alive (no, I don't mean Saturday Night Fever). Fame has elements of the same thing, as does Strictly Ballroom. Footloose has a similar attitude toward dancing. Heck, there's even some of the same feeling in The Cutting Edge. I hear that Centre Stage is similar, but I have yet to see it.

    Interestingly, I saw this film that way - as a story about a girl wanting to become a dancer. The director, on the other hand, sees this film differently - he sees it as a study of an interracial romance. I'd noticed that the central pair of characters happened to be different colours, and that does cause problems, but it didn't seem as important as the dance. I guess I'm obsessed with the dancing.

    There are two strongly contrasting styles of dance (three if you count the modern dance elements) in this film: classical ballet and hip hop. Although it was not the intention, I doubt you could easily find two more contrasting styles. This film served as my introduction to hip hop - I'd heard some of the music, but I'd not seen the dance style before. It's clearly an evolution of the street dancing seen in the 1980s (let's try to forget those movies), but more suited to dancing in pairs and groups. (Before you get the wrong idea, I'm purely an observer - last time I hit a dance floor I did some serious damage, and it wasn't to myself.) 

    There are some fish-out-of-water elements in this film - Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles) is an aspiring ballet dancer. Her mother dies and she must move from her country town to Chicago to live with her father (Terry Kinney). She finds herself plunged into an alien environment. She's at a high school where the student population is perhaps 95% black, which doesn't trouble her, but she gets a quick introduction to the higher crime rate in a big city - metal detectors at the school entrance... A girl called Chenille (Kerry Washington - excellent performance) looks out for her. The real problem comes when she accompanies her new friends to the local dance club - she discovers that she had no idea of how to dance like they do. Derek Reynolds (Sean Patrick Thomas) takes pity on her, and starts teaching her. This starts some real antagonism between Sara and Nikki (Bianca Lawson); Nikki was already in her face, and now Sara's cosying up to the man she wants. 

    Derek's best friend Malakai (Fredro Starr) is heading in a different direction - he's just out of jail, and shows every sign of heading back again. Derek wants to become a doctor, and his marks are good enough. Malakai doesn't like the idea of Derek getting close to Sara - it is never completely clear whether this is because of her colour, or because she is encouraging him away from gang-related stuff.

    Hmm, maybe the director's right about the interracial romance - a lot of the tensions relate to it. Or maybe it's just about race - Sara gets some strange looks simply from being white in a predominantly black neighbourhood.

    Sara is not the archetypal wimp - she is perfectly happy to stick up for herself. That's good.

    This is not a typical teen movie. It's rather better. I recommend it.

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Transfer Quality


    This movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced; I believe the theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1 - this is quite close, and completely fills the screen on a widescreen display.

    The image is variable. The scenes in the dance club display light grain (see 29:40, and passages from 63:44 to 77:08), and a fair bit of smoke haze reducing resolution. Everything else is gorgeous - clear and rather sharp. Shadow detail is very good. I don't believe there is any low-level noise, but the grain could be hiding some.

    Colour is interesting. There's a strong blue tinge over the start of the movie, but I am sure that is intentional. There are some vivid colours which show up clearly - Sara's orange jacket on her first day at the new high school shows up brightly - it makes her stand out strongly, and I rather suspect that is a deliberate artistic touch by the director.

    I didn't notice any aliasing. There's an interesting effect with a chain link fence, but it's source material, not transfer-related. There are no visible MPEG artefacts (well, a miniscule amount of shimmer on a few backgrounds, perhaps). Film artefacts are a different matter. There are numerous tiny film artefacts, with the most noticeable being a black spot at 84:28, an orange fleck at 102:33 (might be an optical effect), and a hair at 46:16. Disappointing in so recent a film. On the R1, the hair shows up at 48:11, the black spot shows up at 87:42, and the orange one at 106:49 (differences due to the 4% speed-up of film on PAL DVD). Looks very much as if the two transfers have something in common, probably a hi-def transfer. It's a shame they didn't take a little more care in doing that transfer - there's no excuse for these film artefacts on a film made last year.

    Subtitles are provided in several languages, but I only watched those in English. In addition to the subtitles (in seven languages) provided for the main soundtrack we also get subtitles for the commentary in English, Spanish, and French - this is an increasing trend, and one I really like. The subtitles are clear, easy to read, and generally accurate (the usual abbreviation happens occasionally); they are well-timed, matching the dialogue perfectly. A few times they subtitle what is meant, rather than what is said - the best example comes more than once when someone says "Hulla hulla" to get a group's attention - this is subtitled as "Hold on, hold on", for which I am grateful - I did not know what they meant.

    The disc is single-sided and RSDL formatted. The layer change is at 46:16, and it's invisible on some players and barely noticeable on others. It's placed at a scene change, on a static image - nice work.

    On one of my DVD players, a Sony 336, there was some glitching at 89:41, and again at 89:53, 89:58, 90:03. I think this was due to some scratches on the review disc, but I have no way to check this until the disc is released. Interestingly, my new Pioneer 733 did not trip up at any of these points. Looks like the technology is getting more tolerant of disc defects.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four soundtracks - the main soundtrack in English, French, and Spanish, all Dolby Digital 5.1, and the commentary in English Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded. I listened to both the English soundtracks.

    Dialogue is easy to understand, even with the extensive use of colloquial terms, and the music in the club. Audio sync is spot on.

    The score is credited to Mark Isham, but there are a lot of songs by a wide variety of artists, and even a classical piece. The background music is nicely worked into the movie, but it is the songs that really have impact. Hope you enjoy hip hop, or at least have an open mind...

    The soundtrack is not a directional tour de force, but the surrounds do provide environment sound, and carry the music. The subwoofer supports the music, but it is not heavily called upon.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The main menu is animated, with music. If you leave it running, the movie begins. The menus are clear and simple - I like that.

Deleted Scenes

    These are provided without any commentary. Generally, they were cut to shorten the movie (apparently the first cut came in at well over 3 hours), but they are interesting to see - they provide more background to the story.

Featurette - Making of Save The Last Dance (19:36)

    Interesting background to the making of this movie. It contains some of the usual mutual admiration, but there's still a lot of information in here. Recommended..

Cast and Crew Interviews (12:33)

    This is actually titled Save the Last Dance Retrospective - it is more of the same as the Making Of. You may have heard of the "half hour rule", which holds that anything under half an hour counts as "promotion of the movie", and the actors need not be paid for it; anything over half an hour must be paid for separately. There's some overlap between this piece and the Making Of, but not a whole lot.. 

Crazy Music Video (3:56)

    This is a music video. I'm not generally a fan of music videos, but this one is interesting - it is like a short piece speculating on one of the central events in the movie. It involves Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas. The performers are K-Ci and Jo Jo.

Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

Feature Commentary - Thomas Carter (director)

    This is interesting stuff - I commend it to you. It is subtitled in English, Spanish, and French - the subtitling is a very cool feature that is not on the R1 disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    These two discs are quite similar, down to having near-identical menus. The R1 has a single Setup menu, while the R4 splits this into Audio and Subtitles, because it offers more choices of languages.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    The transfers seem to have been drawn from a common source, so there's little to pick between them - this is one time when the inherent advantage in resolution of the PAL system can be seen. Moreover, the R4 has subtitles for the commentary, which I regard as a serious advantage. Leads me to recommend the R4 disc.


    Save The Last Dance is an involving movie, with good dancing, presently superbly on DVD.

    The video quality is very good, even with some small film artefacts.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are very good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, February 24, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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