If you were a teenager in the 80’s there’s no doubt you remember stuff like Dance ‘Til Dawn showing up in the TV listings. It seemed in the last few years of the decade the networks decided to produce a handful of lightweight television movies aimed at the teenaged Tiger Beat crowd gathering all of the young sitcom stars they could together and adding in a few veteran actors for a little bit of spice. Some other examples that spring to mind is the driver’s ed based flick Crash Course (which shared a cast member with this in Alyssa Milano) and the summer camp silliness of Camp Cucamonga.
In the most stereotypical coming-of-age way, this mild flick follows the night of the prom for the students at Hoover High. There’s the nerdy Dan (Chris Young) who’s pretending to go to appease his ladies man father (Alan Thicke) only to end up hanging around with popular girl Shelley (Milano) who, at first, doesn’t want to be seen with him. There’s popular snob Patrice (Christina Applegate) and her dumb jock boyfriend Roger (Matthew Perry) getting into all sorts of situations while Patrica is generally obnoxious. And there’s Angela (Tracey Gold), the bookish ugly duckling-type who’s been asked out by studly Kevin (Brian Bloom) because he’s heard she’s “easy”.
Amongst all these teenage hijinks, which includes various slapstick moments and goofy humour, we get Angela’s nebbish parents (Kelsey Grammer and the always pleasing Edie McClurg) stalking their daughter and an attempt at a serious subplot between Patrice’s folks (Cliff De Young, Mary Frann) who’ve been having marital problems and find the prom might be the cure to them.
Of course, this being the 80’s, there’s also all sorts of dated fashions on display, a soundtrack filled heavily with pop-synth tunes, and lots of seemingly pointless (but strangely awesome) footage of the prom’s MC and his date dancing around looking ‘cool’. And, this being what it is, there are lots of life lessons to be had by the time the finale rolls around.
Your enjoyment of Dance ‘Til Dawn will depend on a few things. If you grew up in the decade it came out and watched all of the stars in such sitcoms as “Growing Pains”, “Who’s the Boss?”, and “Married… with Children” and if you have a high tolerance for cheese. Of course, being of the female persuasion might also help. Myself, I found it to be a perfectly fine timewaster that contained a lot more chuckles than I expected going in and I had a lot of fun trying to place all the young actors with whatever television show they were plucked from to co-star here.
Speaking of the young cast, they’re all more than adequate in their clichéd roles with the stand-outs being Gold who brings an innocent naïve vibe to Angela and Perry who almost steals the show as the constantly dumbfounded Roger. I admit to being a little bit sickened by the saccharine scenes between De Young and Frann (especially when he sings “Unchained Melody” to her as they slow dance), but it was fun watching Thicke trying to be a lounge lizard type while Grammer and McClurg supply a lot of sitcom-level levity.
Dance ‘Til Dawn is the kind of movie I’d never expect to be writing about, and definitely not one I’d admit to being pretty entertained by, but you’ll get more mileage out of it if you meet the requirements I mentioned above. It’s harmless, inoffensive, and a total product of its time - I liked it just fine, but I suspect watching it with my girlfriend (and her fond memories of it) might have helped a little. (Chris Hartley, 5/1/12)
Directed By: Paul Schneider.
Written By: Andrew Guerdat, Steve Kreinberg.
Starring: Christina Applegate, Tempest Bledsoe, Brian Bloom, Cliff De Young.