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  Heavenly Bodies Shape Up And Dance
Year: 1984
Director: Lawrence Dane
Stars: Cynthia Dale, Richard Rebiere, Walter George Alton, Laura Henry, Stuart Stone, Patricia Idlette, Pam Henry, Linda Sorensen, Reiner Schwartz, Cec Linder, Micki Moore, Sean Sullivan, Mac Bradden, Michael Tait, Murray Westgate, Elena Kubada, Sugar Bouche
Genre: Musical, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Samantha Blair (Cynthia Dale) has been saving up money from her secretarial job to do what she really wants in life: open her own dance studio where members of the public can be led in the best exercise programmes available. After she and her two friends secure a lease on an empty warehouse which would be perfect for the enterprise, they set about publicising it with fliers photocopied in the office, and soon there's a television crew visiting to put them on the nightly news. It's all looking rosy for single mother Sam, with even romance on the horizon...

Watched Flashdance but didn't think there was enough focus on the dancing? Then step right this way for Heavenly Bodies, which was ninety percent montages, often featuring the art, and ten percent dialogue to propel the plot forward, such as it was. That storyline was almost insultingly simple, but as with many an eighties flick seeking to cash in on a pop culture fad you could have plonked everyone down here in bobbysocks and ponytails, including the men, and you would have a fairly serviceable fifties teen movie to contend with. The strains of synths and the beat of drum machines said otherwise, however.

Yes, you could tell the decade here within nanoseconds of the first number, for this was a musical in its updated guise with the singing relegated to the records played on the soundtrack but the movement very much in the style of puttin' on a show, only with aerobics. Our Sam finds everything to her satisfaction when business starts booming and she strikes up a relationship with nice, gorillagram-favouring football player Steve (Richard Rebiere) who she met while leading his team in exercise (he was acting the goat, a sure method of getting attention in a movie like this). As if that wasn't good enough, she also secures a job on TV as an aerobics instructor, but could that signal her downfall?

You see, she had a rival to that position from Debbie Martin (Laura Henry) who happens to be the partner of a health club baron (there are such things), Jack Pearson, played by the Pumaman himself, Walter George Alton, having left superhero guise far behind. If anything, he's the Lex Luthor of health clubs and with a spot of coaxing from Deb he seeks to derail the whole Heavenly Bodies establishment of Samantha and company. This may be starting to sound as if there's a lot of plot to this, but really that's about it, the majority of screen time is given over to those montages and dance numbers.

Almost as if director Lawrence Dane was grudgingly setting aside time that did not involve training his camera on lithe, leotarded female forms as they work out in formation. If Dane's name sounds familiar, it's not because he was a famous director - this was his sole effort at the helm of his own movie - but because he was a prolific character actor, often playing silver-haired professional types and very recognisable in that capacity. Whatever led him to shoot a Canadian tax shelter film is lost in the mists of time (Playboy co-produced), but it appears his first love was the editing suite in light of how much of this resembled a pop video of the era. It all climaxes in a dance marathon, though not before the boo-hiss Pearson knocks Sam over and injures her leg: does that put her off? Of course not! There follows a They Shoot Horses Don't They? for the eighties, complete with off-camera commentator and presumably somebody watching on TV if there really was nothing better on. But those montages, there certainly were a lot.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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