‘Make it Happen’ movie review: Mary Elizabeth Winstead dance drama

An embarrassing, poorly choreographed and atrociously edited dance drama, Flashdance-inspired Make It Happen receives a theatrical bow in the Czech Republic (and elsewhere) but went straight to DVD in the US. 

A wise decision, and perhaps, an effort to save the career of talented young actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead; tall, lanky, and supermodel-thin, she’s hung out to dry here while performing graceless ghetto girl moves and looks positively ridiculous throughout.

Winstead stars as small-town girl Lauryn, who runs an auto shop with brother Joel (John Reardon), but dreams of studying dance at the prestigious Chicago School of Music and Dance. Down-and-out after being denied admission on the basis of a 10-second audition, a kind waitress who she’s just met (Tessa Thompson) offers her the room and board and a potential job. 

So Lauryn becomes a bookkeeper at Ruby’s a kind of 1920’s burlesque house crossed with the techno-club scene, and soon she “gets her chance” to dance half-naked in front of ogling male patrons (every girl’s dream). 

She confronts diva Carmen (Julissa Bermudez, who has the film’s lone decent dance scene) and lies to her brother about being accepted into the school, which lead to the inevitable scenes of rejection, followed shortly by the inevitable scenes of acceptance.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it involves Lauryn auditioning for the dance school again: she performs the exact same moves, but this time she takes off her clothes to the noted approval of our leering director. Lovely.

Formulaic would be a kind descriptor of Make It Happen, a mishmash of tired clichés from movies that weren’t any good in the first place, films like Coyote Ugly and Save the Last Dance and Step Up, the latter two also written by Make It scribe Duane Adler, who seems to have made a career out of recycling the Flashdance formula.

Director Darren Grant fails to bring anything new to the table, or leave any kind of mark on the film. The dance scenes are shot guerilla-style with handheld cams, and hyper-edited to within an inch of their lives; this may obscure the wretched choreography, but also makes for a nauseating experience.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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