In the glory days of MTV, the cable channel's focus was largely on broadcasting music videos. Alternate fare in the form of wacky game shows, oddball animation cartoons, and other such entertainment also made the channel, but didn't interfere with the channel's main overall focus. Turn The Beat Around, a TV movie set to air on MTV on Friday, February 26 at 10 pm, proves that the channel is losing ground in the area that got them going in the first place.
Zoe (Romina D'Ugo) is a dancer who wants to dance for a living. She gets her chance to achieve her goal when a hunky rich nightclub owner named Michael (David Giuntoli) buys into her concept for a disco nightclub. Climbing the mountain to her success, she finds slowly that her relationships with her family and her jealous dancer boyfriend (Adam Taylor Brooks) are falling apart. To make matters worse, another woman (Brooklyn Sudano) is looking to steal Zoe's boyfriend.
A disco nightclub in 2010? Come on now. I'm sorry, but that's like Jon Favreau trying to make a nightclub for swing music. You may get a few curious people in the door to dance to some Bee Gees tunes and groove on Donna Summer, but I don't see that conceptually working. The era of disco, despite some rather good music coming from it, is over and done with. Given that this is a film that isn't meant to be taken as something realistic, I'll explain my problem with disco in relation to this film.
When Zoe gets Michael to let his DJ at one of his nightclubs play a disco song in one scene, the song that is played doesn't feel or sound anything like a disco song. Later on in another scene, "That's The Way I Like It" is played. If my memory serves me correctly, the original song, which actually was released in the disco era, had an actual full band behind it.
The version that is played of "That's The Way I Like It" in this film doesn't have that unique sound in the background. Disco music primarily worked because it combined soul music and dance with the sound of a big band. Removing those elements make that song, in its newer form within this film, seem lifeless.
Because Turn The Beat Around doesn't bother with any sort of musical authenticity when it comes to disco, scenes where Zoe tries to train dancers for the new nightclub come off as unintentionally funny. Simply put, in order to do the hustle, you need the actual song behind it to work. Teaching such dances without the actual songs that inspired them dilutes the cultural significance even more.
The soap opera aspects involving Zoe's family life and relationships aren't really given much screen time. I normally can overlook that aspect in a film surrounding the art of dancing, but the lack of observation into the main character's personal life in this case struck me as careless on the part of MTV. I know your character wants to be a dancer, but who is she beyond what she loves?
MTV should consult classic dance movies that took their style to a new level such as Footloose and Flashdance before ever bothering with another dance film.
On top of the rather lukewarm treatment the film gives the disco era, the other songs that make the soundtrack aren't that memorable. One track could have blended into another without much difference. It would be an ironic contrast to play an actual disco song next to a modern day song.
For all the hating that is sent towards that era, you could at least distinguish a song from that era from a contemporary song. Play the songs from this soundtrack and play them alongside the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever while cleaning your house. I'm sure you will make out a Bee Gees track from anything Jason Derulo (who also acts in the film) sings.
Given the still negative attitude people may have passed to their children about this era of music, I find it hard to believe someone will sit down for Turn The Beat Around and discover what the era was about (and why it was hated so much). I recommend renting Saturday Night Fever, or grabbing a copy of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall for a taste of that era instead of this film.