Nothing says "'80s" like a torn sweatshirt and Irene Cara belting out "Take your passion, and make it happen!" That's why everyone still loves Flashdance, a fluffy, pop-scored '80s time capsule that's probably more famous for its title song than any of its performances. Not that Jennifer Beals isn't appealing as Alex, the feisty, determined 18-year-old welder/exotic dancer/aspiring ballerina who shimmies and shakes her way through the movie. But people looking for hard-hitting drama won't find it here Flashdance is really just a string of dance scenes held together with a standard underdog-defeating-the-odds story. Desperate to break out of her dreary working-class existence in Pittsburgh, but too intimidated to try out for the city's elite ballet corps, Alex finally gets the courage she needs when she starts dating Nick (Michael Nouri, with Prince Humperdinck hair), her boss at the steel factory. Things get complicated when Nick uses a favor to get Alex an audition, and her pride and fear threaten to stand in the way of her dream ("When you give up your dream, you die," Nick tells her earnestly) but, really, is there ever any question of whether she'll succeed? It's a formula, but it's entertaining, not to mention a lot less exploitative than its cinematic progeny (Showgirls and Coyote Ugly being two of the more obvious examples). And the subplot involving Alex's friends Richie (Kyle T. Heffner) and Jeanie (Sunny Johnson), both of whom also try to escape Pittsburgh with their talents (comedy and ice skating, respectively), offers an interesting, affecting glimpse of what Flashdance could have been had it shied away from the flash and the dance and opted for real drama instead. When all is said and done, though, Flashdance is still the perfect escape movie for anyone who misses the '80s (just don't forget to put on your legwarmers before you watch it). Music, clothing, and hairstyles aside, the movie has actually aged fairly well, too the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer on Paramount's DVD is strong, and the Oscar-winning title tune has never sounded better than it does in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (other options include English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks, as well as English and Spanish subtitles). The disc doesn't offer any extras (what, Beals and Nouri were too busy too sit down and record a commentary?); hope that doesn't mean we'll have to shell out again for a special edition somewhere down the line.... Keep-case.
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