Metascore
68

Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 18
  2. Negative: 2 out of 18
  1. But the movie has a great deal of zest and charm, and Yakusho gets so exactly that crest of melancholy that is a man’s early 40s, until he decides to go for another kind of life, that the movie is infinitely touching.
  2. 88
    One of the more completely entertaining movies I've seen in a while--a well-crafted character study that, like a Hollywood movie with a skillful script, manipulates us but makes us like it.
  3. Even when the catharsis we yearn for arrives, it's tinged with restraint. But then, the true romance in Shall We Dance? is more than personal. It's the spectacle of a nation learning to dance with itself.
  4. Reviewed by: Ian Freer
    80
    Shohei's journey from unhappy worker bee - the early scenes are cleverly sketched to show his mundane routine without ever themselves being boring - to rejuvenated free spirit is credible, actually earning the film's final emotional wallop. Irresistible.
  5. 80
    While the characters, situations, and gags are all familiar, Shall We Dance?'s gentle humanity and quiet exuberance are contagious.
  6. 80
    The film successfully walks the thin line between slick commercialism and "serious" realism. It is sentimental, but it comes by its sentiment honestly, through well-observed performances by the leads and a keen insight into the quirks of the Japanese middle-class culture.
  7. The film successfully walks the thin line between slick commercialism and "serious" realism. It is sentimental, but it comes by its sentiment honestly, through well-observed performances by the leads and a keen insight into the quirks of the Japanese middle-class culture.
  8. And the dancing, as in ''Strictly Ballroom,'' is filmed with a wishful Fred-and-Ginger sweetness that gives the film a studiously effervescent mood.
  9. Good in their individual scenes, Yakusho and Kusakari are magical together. They convey so much yearning -- not so much for each other as for that extra something to give real meaning to their lives.
  10. A charming and moving film about a slightly racy subculture in a highly rule-bound society.
  11. 75
    This is a film for anyone who prefers to leave the theater smiling.
  12. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    70
    The film has such a weakness for the easy incongruity (short men dancing with tall women--isn't that hilarious?) that it could almost be Australian. But Shall We Dance? also has an emotional gravity; it is grounded in a middle-aged man's nagging belief that he has one last chance to grab at life. [16 June 1997, p.76]
  13. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    63
    Has its moments - but far too many of them. It runs two hours and seems to end five times.
  14. Reviewed by: Sarah Kerr
    60
    It's alert to its characters' constantly evolving desires in ways that high- and low-culture movies, with their strict aesthetics or their mass-market formulas, tend not to be.
  15. Reviewed by: Sandra Contreras
    50
    It addresses issues of stultifying routine and the small crises of middle-aged life, and deserves credit for not obscuring the simple story with a flurry of smoke and mirrors.
  16. 50
    As sticky as "Strictly Ballroom," if far better behaved, Shall We Dance was written and directed by Masayuki Suo, a man who really knows his way around clichés both benign and tiresome.
  17. Reviewed by: B.J. Sigesmund
    30
    The film suffers dearly because of the two underwritten, emotionally unavailable characters at the film's center and when all is revealed at an amateur dance contest, the music — and the modicum of tension the movie has created — dies.
  18. Its paper-thin characters turned into caricatures by egregious hamming, this 1996 Japanese comedy-drama about shy ballroom dancers is sentimental goo and downright interminable.

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