A scene from 'Bootmen'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 90 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, October 6, 2000
Directed by Dein Perry

Starring Adam Garcia, Sam Worthington, Sophie Lee, William Zappa, Susie Porter, Matt Lee, Chris Horsey, Lee McDonald, Drew Kaluski & Jonno Zissler


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Spectacular tap dancing not enough to make up for inept direction, pathetically trite story in 'Bootmen'

By Rob Blackwelder

Take away the stagey but sensational, industrial-hip tap dance numbers, and all that's left of "Bootmen" is cheap, embarrassingly unoriginal, melodramatic-romantic swill.

An Aussie import about Newcastle steel workers who wish they were Broadway hoofers, the movie is nothing but one-dimensional stock characters trudging through a trite retread plot, waiting for the soundtrack to kick in so they can get jiggy.

Boy-band cute Adam Garcia ("Coyote Ugly") is the mildly rebellious son of long-dead mom and an unsupportive, hard-drinking pop (Richard Carter) who thinks his son should give up his aspirations and resign himself to a blue collar life. "You've never even seen me tap!" Garcia whines.

He has a scruffy, troubled, disloyal brother (Sam Worthington) with a bad attitude who is destined for tragedy so someone can say "Mitch would have wanted it this way."

He has a perky, innocuous girlfriend (Sophie Lee, "Holy Smoke"), an Olivia Newton-John clone who gets pregnant so he's forced to grow up and commit to something.

And when he's kicked out of a dance troupe in Sydney for being a cocky improviser during his One Big Chance (it takes about two minutes of screen time), he pursues his dream of putting together his own show that isn't stifled by stuffy traditionalists.

Directed by choreographer Dein Perry (he created "Tap Dogs"), whose inexperience behind the camera shows in the film's lackluster point-and-shoot staging, "Bootmen" is a sloppy, stilted, labored contrivance of random plot devices so discombobulated that there isn't a single scene longer than 15 seconds in the entire picture.

That is, of course, except for the dance numbers, which are so spirited and invigorating they deserve better than to be dropped into the middle of this tripe.

Garcia isn't much of an actor, but boy can he tap. In several scenes he leads a core group of five guys in a spectacular array of moves that lend the movie some fleeting vitality. Most of the dancing takes place at the steelworks, where machinery and metal floors are put to great use enhancing the impact of the steel toes and heels added to the dancers' work boots.

Naturally, everything comes together in a flashy finale that would be great to watch by sneaking into "Bootmen" after seeing another movie at a multiplex. But to have to sit through the movie's completely inept direction and bubble gum plot is too harsh a price to pay.

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