September 28, 2004 08:25 AM

It’s no smooth waltz for Shall We Dance, the new movie starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez set to open Oct. 15.

The industry’s two trade papers, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, have given the film, which is a remake of a hit 1996 Japanese ballroom dancing romance, decidedly mixed reviews – with the Reporter flat-out slamming it “as a dishearteningly sullen, lead-footed misstep.”

Variety, though still essentially panning the film, treads a bit lighter. The “new version (set in Chicago) misses the built-in Japanese cultural restraints that intensified the poignancy the first time around, and central casting issues are dicey,” says critic Todd McCarthy.

“While the smooth dancing of the second half eventually persuades one to set aside objections,” he writes, “suffice it to say Gere is not the first actor who comes to mind to embody a straitlaced man frustrated by a life of walking the straight and narrow.”

McCarthy does give high marks to the comic turn by Stanley Tucci, who wears a Moe Howard Three Stooges wig as a disco freak.

But that still leaves Lopez, who plays Paulina, the object of attraction for the Gere character, a married lawyer with a wandering eye. McCarthy barely mentions her in his review.

As Reporter reviewer Michael Rechtshaffen explains: “While the marketing may suggest otherwise, Lopez figures in only about a third of the film – if that – and her severely underwritten character gives her a lot less to grab onto than costume designer Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell’s elegant, form-hugging creations.”

He concludes: “By the time Gere and Lopez reach the big finale, dancing to the buoyant Rodgers and Hammerstein The King and I tune that lends the film its title, the number has been so truncated that there’s really no point to have included it.”

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