Center Stage: On Pointe is a straight-to-Lifetime sequel to the cult hit dance movie of 2000, which is probably most famous for its unhinged final dance sequence, which involved, among other things, Michael Jackson, awkward sex, and an EPIC costume change. So if you expected that it would be an even more absurd movie than the original, with gloriously nonsensical plot devices, inexplicable directing choices, and satisfying shoutouts to the original, you’re in luck: it was. And here are 21 reasons why.
(Fair warning: if you aren’t a fan of the original, you probably won’t get much out of this post. Or out of the movie itself, to be honest.)
1. Cooper Nielsen makes an appearance.
Cooper Nielsen, if you’ll recall, was the guy from Center Stage who seduced heroine Jody Sawyer and then choreographed a dance about it that will live forever in our hearts. Meanwhile, the woman he actually cared about was Jonathan Reeves’s wife. Happily, they seem to have gotten over their love-triangle-induced animosity. Here’s Jonathan giving Cooper an award! And Cooper looking much less like a serial killer than he did before!
2. Jonathan’s eyebrows have a starring role.
They’re still amazing.
3. There are silly plot devices.
This rich lady announces that the American Ballet Company needs to start doing modern dance, like Cooper Nielson. “Give me a reason to invest in your company again,” she says. Jonathan immediately changes his mind entirely about modern dance and sets about starting a summer boot camp to find young modern dancers to add to his ballet company. No one stops to wonder why someone would be “investing” in a non-profit ballet company (it performs at Juilliard, or at least it did in the higher-budget original, so it’s got to be non-profit, right?). Maybe the writers got mixed up as to what the word “company” means? Maybe they think “donating” and “investing” are the same thing?
CHARLIE, you guys.
Charlie was Jody Sawyer’s love interest in the first movie, once she realized that as a boyfriend, Cooper Nielsen kind of sucked. Here’s the face he makes when Jonathan announces they’re gonna be doing modern dance at the American Ballet Company now. Don’t look so skeptical dude. You know you loved being in Cooper’s insane ballet.
Speaking of which:
5. There is totally gratuitous use of footage from original movie’s best moment.
Jonathan decides to show his students some “home movies” (no, seriously, he calls them that, after wheeling in possibly the last portable TV+VCR setup in existence in NYC) of the kind of modern dance he wants them to do. Obviously, there is only one example worth seeing: the time when Cooper Nielsen choreographed an epic dance that involved himself and Jody Sawyer simulating their real-life one-night stand onstage, then Charlie showing up to act out his real-life love triangle with Jody and Cooper, then Jody’s leotard magically changing color and her hair magically braiding itself into cornrows while she was onstage dancing to Michael Jackson. Clearly, no one has ever done modern dance as well as Cooper Nielsen. In the entire sixteen years since, other modern dances were basically just pale shadows of Cooper Nielsen’s masterwork.
This is also how we learn that Jody and Charlie are married. Yay!! And that Jody has “conquered the European dance world.” Sure, Jody. I’m sure you did that.
6. People randomly dance at inappropriate times.
These legs belong to Bella, our plucky underdog protagonist. She’s a waitress. And she’s dancing from table to table to pick up people’s used plates, because apparently she couldn’t find any more normal time to practice for her audition for the bootcamp. It’s exactly as embarrassing and weird as you’d expect.
You’re not in a Britney Spears video, Bella. Calm down and do your job and practice late at night in the studio like any self-respecting dance movie heroine would do.
Oh, and here’s Bella dancing on her morning jog later on, just in case we didn’t get the memo. Bella loves to dance, OK? She LOVES TO DANCE.
7. There are sick burns.
This diner customer asks Bella why she’s dancing, then announces she’s not the ballerina type, and suggests she should probably just be a paralegal.
It’s no “I’m the best goddamn dancer at the American Ballet Academy. Who the hell are you? NOBODY.” But it’s an enjoyably mean response to hearing that someone wants to be a full-time artist.
He also tells her that the other waitress working at the diner (who’s about thirty-two, so clearly she’s over the hill and has nothing left to live for) used to want to be a dancer too. Bella is suitably horrified at the prospect of ending up like her.
8. There is an audition montage.
Charlie, Jonathan, the bootcamp instructor Tommy, and a grouchy woman who hates modern dance hold auditions for the summer bootcamp. Multiple factors doom this audition montage, including the fact that they didn’t have the budget for an actual song so everyone is essentially auditioning to elevator Muzak, and the fact that the editors had obviously decided that the only way to avoid having to work on Lifetime movies in the future was to get Super Artistic now. And the best way to be Super Artistic, as everyone knows, is to select a few clips and randomly apply slow motion to them so they look important.
Bella auditions last, as is the rule for all audition montages ever. Her biggest obstacle is that she accidentally miscues her iPhone and other music plays as soon as she plugs it in. Gasp!!! What drama! Also, after her audition she totally runs off without getting her phone back, so, hopefully she doesn’t meet any cute boys that want to text her while she’s at bootcamp.
9. Chekhov’s bus departure schedule makes an appearance.
Everyone knows if a bus departure time is mentioned in one scene, the hero or heroine will inevitably miss the bus departure by just a hair in the next scene. This cliche is used with absolutely no relation to Bella’s personality or situation. She’s just… late.
Luckily she catches up to the bus just after it pulls away. Whew. I, for one, was extremely worried that she would never make it to camp.
10. Someone wears the wrong clothes to rehearsal because she’s a Free Spirit.
Oh, Bella. You are not the new Eva and you should never try to be. Also, did you buy your leotard at a souvenir stand?
11. Someone wears a fedora.
Damon is Bella’s love interest. He doesn’t know how to be free, so Bella teaches him how to be free. And he has a fedora. And, that’s pretty much all there is to say about Damon.
12. Someone is really bad at hiding their deep dark secret.
Bella is convinced that everyone will judge her if they find out her sister is a famous ballerina. That’s why she hangs a giant poster of her sister in her bunk. You know, to throw everyone off the scent.
13. Someone tries to prove he’s a man by doing extra leaps.
In Center Stage: Original Flavor, Charlie and Cooper Nielsen end up in a dance-off where they each do an escalating series of leaps to show off for Jody. In Center Stage: On Pointe, Ivan, the Cocky One (he claims he’s the next Cooper Nielsen), does an extra leap during class. The teacher tells him to stop. He does it again, even though he did it fine the first time. She tells him to stop again. He does it again, and breaks his ankle, not unexpectedly. Why, Ivan? Why do it three times when you did it fine the first time and NOBODY CARES?
14. There are disappearing sidekicks…
On the bus, Bella and Gwen become best friends. They’re so excited that they’re bunking together! BUNK BUDDIES! And then… they don’t talk again for the rest of the movie. Bella meets a different girl, Allegra, and totally forgets about Gwen.
It’s fine though. Gwen is kind of annoying, like, when she gets to the camp she stops to wax poetic on the fact that there’s silence and to announce dramatically that she’s never heard silence before. Which is both lame and, since another girl is jabbering the whole time about how there’s no Wi-Fi, PATENTLY IRRELEVANT since she’s not hearing silence now either.
15. …and disappearing antagonists.
The American Ballet Company lady who hates modern dance? Doesn’t actually lift a finger to try to stop Jonathan from incorporating it. She just bitches about it for awhile and then comes back at the end to bitch about it for a few more seconds and… that’s it. She votes against Bella getting into the bootcamp only to be immediately downvoted by Jonathan.
Then there’s another mean lady at the bootcamp who tells Bella she sucks as a dancer. She has some potential, but Bella only seems to care about this for about five minutes. Weak sauce all around from the would-be villains.
16. Everyone sneaks out to relieve their stress with some fun dancing.
Here’s Damon twirling around by the fire. I mean, if you say this is fun, I guess I believe you.
17. There’s a training montage.
Bella and Damon, who are dance class partners, stay at the studio late at night with Allegra (Bella’s new best friend after she totally forgets about Gwen) and her partner to practice. Like the audition montage, the training montage is set to Muzak, so it’s fairly lame. But it does lead to the obligatory scene where Bella and Damon practice on their own and somehow end up almost kissing.
18. A girl gets kicked out of the camp for gossiping.
Because that’s a thing that happens.
Ivan spreads a rumor that Bella is guaranteed a spot at the ABC in exchange for her famous sister guest starring. Then the instructors of the boot camp hold a giant meeting and lecture everyone about how if you talk shit about the company it’s called defamation. They threaten to kick out anyone who spread the rumor, so Candie (the girl who loves wi-fi) fesses up and has to go pack her bags. In the real world, rumors are usually spread by more than one person, but in Magical Lifetime Movie World, one person can easily be blamed for anything that goes wrong. Bye Candie. Enjoy your wifi out in the real world.
19. There’s a last-minute cast substitution.
Everyone knows that you can’t have a final performance in a movie without a surprise last-minute cast substitution!
As with Center Stage: OF, the final performance at the bootcamp is an audition for the American Ballet Company. The big conceit about this one is that everyone is judged in pairs.This is obviously stupid, since if Jonathan accidentally paired the weakest dancer with the strongest dancer on the first day, he’s totally screwing himself over and will have to pass up the strong dancer or take on a weak one. It is also a problem for Allegra: her partner gets an offer from another ballet company and ditches her at the last minute. Jonathan and his buddies, who invested all this time and effort into training people so they could add modern dance to their company, apparently don’t realize that they could just change the rules and have Allegra audition on her own. So Bella heroically lets Allegra take her place with Damon.
20. There is a ridiculous dance finale.
At the last minute, Allegra can’t stand to take Bella’s spot. So, Damon decides the best thing to do at this moment is to pull Bella onstage with them and improvise a dance.
Remember Jody Sawyer’s sex dance? Good, because I’ve mentioned it like six times by now. OK. Now, do you also remember when Romy and Michele put on a long, elaborate, crazypants dance to “Time After Time” with Sandy Frink? Now just imagine the cracked-out offspring those two dances would produce if they got married, and you have the dance that Bella, Allegra, and Damon improvise at their audition. When Damon lifts one girl, the other one sort of twirls around aimlessly. Then at the end, he gets one on each shoulder and kind of spins around. It’s completely deranged.
Amazingly, Peter Gallagher, that consummate professional, keeps a completely straight face the whole time. I think Sascha Radetsky is having a little trouble, though:
21. There is a happy ending.
Jonathan declares that since Bella, Allegra, and Damon all auditioned together, they have to be judged together—either they all make it or none does. Luckily, since Bella, Allegra, and Damon are the main characters anyway, they all get in to the American Ballet Company thirty seconds after he says this. I know I’m shocked.