I have absolutely no doubt that director Susan Seidelman really believes she has created a profound film that takes a look at people overcoming disabilities and some of the options now available that were once unheard of. She may even believe that her film might encourage people with disabilities to go forth and take on challenges they might otherwise ignore.


But the reality is, her latest film "Musical Chairs" serves more as an unrealistic fantasy rather than a fanciful drama. Which may be why she used second and third tier talent though she once commanded sets with Meryl Streep, John Malkovich, Peter Falk and Madonna. Indeed, after a whirlwind early career which included "Desperately Seeking Susan", "Making Mr. Right", and "She Devil" Ms Seidelman has been relegated to television productions.


"Musical Chairs" is not going to help her career. using a script penned by Marty Madden ("Assault of the Party Nerds"?) Seidelman applied broad strokes of mediocrity when boldness was required.

The story revolves around a young Puerto Rican dancer named Armando (E.J. Bonillo) who has two jobs: working in his families restaurant and working at a local dance studio. Armando is a fine dancer; not refined, but with adept Latin dance club moves.


He doesn't teach at the dance studio, he merely cleans up and dances with old cougars to keep them renewing their studies. At the restaurant he is hounded by his mother Isabel (Priscilla Lopez) who wants him to get married to a hot young Latina named Rosa (Angelic Zambrana). But he shows little interest in her because he is drawn to one of the dancers at the studio... Mia (Leah Pipes).


Mia however is involved with the owner of the studio who has his eyes on winning a ballroom dance competition. Mia and the owner have worked long and hard to develop a routine and Armando enjoys watching them dance. Actually he likes watching her dance. He actually gets a chance to dance with Mia and during their brief encounter she realizes he, too is a good dancer.


But that is short-lived as minutes later, she is in an accident that causes her to lose the use of her legs. She is now confined to a wheelchair.

But Armando, undeterred visits her in the hospital everyday to cheer her up even while the studio owner has moved on to another dancer (and woman). Armando is determined to get Mia spiritually back on her feet.


He gets the idea to start teaching the paraplegics in the hospital how to ballroom dance. Those interested are a transgendered drag queen, a militant war hero and a goth princess (Auti Angel). None have dance experience and all have there doubts - except for the drag queen.


Mia reluctantly joins the group as well as the hot Latina Rosa, Armando's Uncle Wilfredo and the clinic janitor. Now is a race for them to enter New York's first annual Wheelchair Ballroom Competition which is included in the regular contest. MEANWHILE, Isabel is still trying to torpedo Armando and Mia's relationship with Rosa (the hot sexy Latina).


In a few short weeks, this motley crew will shrug off their disabilities, learn complex dance moves get the point. Mia will overcome the deep traumatic impact of being a paraplegic to effectively help teach the group and secure Armando as her new man. Armando will eschew the hot, sex Latina for Mia who was never hot even when she could walk.


Aside from talent that seemed frequently to still be reading their lines, the film stays on a fast forward zipping pass reality. Nothing is believable (not even the accident) and nothing seems earned. The learning curve disappears in one fell swoop of a writers keyboard.


"Musical Chairs" is disappointing at best. The nifty camerawork of Stephen Kazmierski and the decent choreography by Aubree Marchione are the redeeming factors - as well as the hot Latina Angelic Zambrana. Otherwise this is yet another bust for Susan Seidelman.   -- GEOFF BURTON