"A CHORUS LINE: The Movie" is like a soccer match seen only from the waist up. They've cut off the feet, which is all the more frustrating when you're supposed to be enjoying the fancy footwork.
Call me old-fashioned, but when I watch dance, I like to see those tapping toes or those soft-shoes. In this case, it's gang flashdancing by choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday of the shoulder-shrugging school. Hornaday's athletic attack makes this Broadway-based musical look like aerobics at Spa Lady. It's energetic and repetitive, exercise ballet with chorines working their lats between leg-lifts.
Kicky, yes. Fun, definitely. But just when you're getting interested in the dazzle of the dance, there's that misguided cameraman. Ronnie Taylor, director of photography, claims to have "expanded" the classic stage musical with his fluid camera work. Ha. I call it amputation. This guy must have had a nasty scrape with Dr. Scholl.
Sir Richard Attenborough, who hired Taylor for his point of view and Hornaday for "the excitement of the '80s," directs his first film since "Gandhi" and on the same epic scale, sort of a Gandhi Night Fever.
He guides a pleasant, mostly unmemorable cast of 17 newcomers, but with several promising upstagers. Audrey Landers, a high-bosomed, high-spirited starlet, struts her tribute to plastic surgery in "Dance -- Ten, Looks -- Three." And Gregg Burge is a explosive high- leaper in "Surprise, Surprise," one of two songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban that have been added to the original score.
Michael Douglas, the only big name in the cast, plays the choreographer Zach, who evolves from a presence in the play to a fully realized character on screen. Zach goads the dancers -- a universal corps of hopefuls -- into sharing their innermost secrets during an audition. Sung soliloquies, nervous energy, high hopes and high kicks hold sway, as the godlike choreographer sits in the darkened theater, holding the dancers' dreams in his hands.
Occasionally, the movie flashes back on a relationship between Zach and Cassie, a former headliner who's starting over, pleading "Let Me Dance for You." Alyson Reed, a leaden dancer with a nice voice, stands out for her lack of charisma and terpsichore. What little damage she does, however, is nothing compared to the unnecessary flash cuts to their inane love affair.
Attenborough and company do what no one else has been able to do with this warhorse: Stop the show.