Dein Perry, the founder of the good-on-yer-mate tap troupe Tap Dogs, is comfortable with most of the challenges of directing this musical drama, forged from his own memories of creating a men-at-work style of dance from the hard tack environment of his youth. He's picked a convincing and appealing cast, fresh in looks and spirit. He's also managed to present the Australian industrial city of Newcastle, on the coast north of Sydney, as more than just a striking backdrop of decaying factories and empty beaches--it actually resonates truthfully as the place these working-class characters live. As a choreographer, he hasn't overdone the dancing, which is always fun and invigorating to watch. Whoever thought a guy tapping on toilet seats could look stylish? But he can't overcome the clichés of the script, replete with star-crossed lovers, family feuds, gang enmity and violence and practically every impediment you can think of to fulfilling the central character's dreams of happiness and success at home and on stage--including the fatal fall from the high beam.
Garcia is cute and sassy without being obnoxious as Sean, the gotta-dance lead. Sam Worthington does an equally decent job revealing the worthy bloke buried within the misguided brother, Mitchell, who's tempted by another way out. Sophie Lee manages to be three-dimensional in the trophy role of the lovely lass, Linda, who pulls the heartstrings. The homegrown Aussie supporting cast also avoids the posturing and self-satisfaction too often visible in Hollywood movies. Still, the sentiments the whole troupe must play are just, well, too sentimental, too familiar, too 'ere-we-go-again, to allow the film to live up to being a real beaut, like the dance which is its backbone. Starring Adam Garcia, Sam Worthington and Sophie Lee. Directed by Dein Perry. Written by Steve Worland. Produced by Hilary Linstead. A Fox Searchlight release. Musical/drama. Rated R for language, some violence and a scene of sexuality. Running time: 93 min