I think it's safe to tell you, without spoiling the movie, that The Men Who Stare at Goats includes a couple of scenes with Jeff Bridges and George Clooney dancing around. The scenes are amusing and a little strange -- why are soldiers dancing? But they did fit consistently with the film as a whole. However, I was reminded of moments in movies that aren't musicals, but suddenly shift to some crazy kind of dance or musical number. I love these moments, and in fact I wish the dance scenes in The Men Who Stare at Goats were a little less toned-down and a little more "WTF?"
Okay, I'm kind of BS'ing you here. The Men Who Stare at Goats is a flimsy excuse. I really just wanted to write about surreal dance numbers in otherwise straightforward movies, because that can be so much fun. Last year's Adam Sandler vehicle Bedtime Stories was an annoying dud ... except for one glorious, shining moment where Guy Pearce launched into a song-and-dance number. Sometimes these dance moments are the best part of a movie, sometimes they spoil the mood and sometimes they're just one more weird aspect of an altogether bizarre film. Here are seven of my favorites.
Please note that I said favorite dance scenes, which is why one of the most bizarre and incongruous musicalnumbers in an action film is not on this list: Peter Parker's Venom-induced dancing in Spider-Man 3. That sequence makes me cringe; I feel embarrassed for just about everyone, including myself. But it certainly falls into "WTF?" territory.
Tank Girl, "Let's Do It"
Tank Girl is the first movie that pops into my mind when we're talking about dance numbers appearing out of nowhere, and it may be the best of the bunch. Lori Petty's title character storms a nightclub, holds the owner hostage, and tells her she has to perform Cole Porter's "Let's Do It." Of course everyone in the room launches into a dance number complete with high kicks and a few nods to Busby Berkeley. This never happened in the Mad Max movies. Check it out about 2 minutes into the video below.
Southland Tales, "All These Things That I Have Done"
I know, I'm one of the five people in America who thought the movie was fascinating, like watching some kind of super-alternative art exhibit. The tale of dystopian politics and strange science fiction is a bizarre mess, and without warning, Justin Timberlake's confused drug-addicted soldier suddenly starts singing. Well, actually he's lip-synching to The Killers' song. Platinum blondes in "hot nurse" attire appear out of nowhere to kick and strut and shake in the background. The video below is only of the musical number; showing more of the actual film might only confuse you.
Clerks II, "ABC 123"
We could actually argue that this isn't the only dance number in Clerks II -- in a way, it's a musical. You've got Jay's little Silence of the Lambstribute, the donkey dance ... and the bumper-cars sequence feels like a dance number to me. Whoever adapted Hairspray into a Broadway musical should consider this Kevin Smith movie next. Still, having a rooftop dance lesson transform into a full-blown choreographed number to the tune of the Jackson 5's "ABC 123" was unexpected, and lots of fun. Much better than rooftop hockey, as you can see from the video below. (Apparently that's Small Town Gay Bar director Malcolm Ingram dancing in the bathroom.) Warning: Video is NSFW
The Big Lebowski, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)"
Here's another movie that has musical potential -- okay, maybe not. But it is surprisingly full of song and dance, when you think about it.: the Spanish-language version of "Hotel California" accompanied by dance-like bowling moves and Jesus's actual dancing in triumph; the dance cycle performed by The Dude's landlord; and best of all, the "Gutterballs" dream sequence. Set to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Just Dropped In," we not only get to enjoy Jeff Bridges's dance stylings (better here than in The Men Who Stare at Goats), but also a chorus line of leggy dancers in wonderful bowling-pin headgear. Here's the video. Warning: Video NSFW
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, "Time After Time"
Someone mentioned this movie when I started talking about writing up this list, and I thought they were being ridiculous. Movies about high-school reunions and high-school proms and such all have dance numbers in them, so how could this be at all incongruous? I didn't remember the dance number from the movie, anyway. Then I found online video of the dance and watched it. Oh, dear. Oh, I laughed so hard I frightened the cat. The dance that Lisa Kudrow, Mira Sorvino and Alan Cumming perform to the Cyndi Lauper tune is unbelievably funny. Mira Sorvino, please appear in more comedies.
Pulp Fiction, "You Never Can Tell"
I actually thought about whether to include the "Stuck in the Middle with You" number from Reservoir Dogs on this list. It is very dance-like, isn't it? But I figured I should stick to actual dance numbers, and this scene from another Quentin Tarantino film fits the bill. Pulp Fiction is populated with crime bosses, paid assassins, destructive thugs, drug addicts and generally crazy people. This scene in the video below occurs shortly before a certain scene I cannot watch without peeking with my hands over my eyes. And yet here we have a lovely little dance scene with Uma Thurman and John Travolta's characters -- energetic, slightly titillating, and downright cute, set to a Chuck Berry tune. You never can tell.
Risky Business, "Old Time Rock'n'Roll"/ Tropic Thunder, "Get Back"
Why not finish with one of the best-known goofy dance scenes in movies from the past 30 years? For many of us, our first exposure to Tom Cruise was watching his Risky Business character slide across his parents floor in a shirt and underwear, dancing and lip-synching to this Bob Seger song. It's practically an iconic moment in film now. And look at how very young he is! Compare that to Cruise's dancing to the Ludacris song over the closing credits of last year's comedy hit Tropic Thunder, in heavy makeup as a Hollywood studio executive. I can't embed the Tropic Thunder dance video, but you can watch it here ... best to watch these two videos back-to-back.
By special request from my editor (who also seems to love this stuff), I'm adding video footage of two more dance-y scenes for you to enjoy. The first clip is from a romantic comedy that was released this summer, the second clip is from a teen comedy that was very popular when I was in high school. Now let me know what else I've forgotten to include.