David T. Carlson

You could say I have pretty high standards when it comes to movies. More often than not, I leave the theater feeling disappointed, sometimes having enjoyed a film right up until its ending, which is the moment when so many motion pictures fall short for me. That’s because the only films with real movie magic, the ones that truly move me, are the ones in which the whole cast performs a choreographed dance number in a little box next to the credits.

That’s the key to a four-star film. Either the final scene fades to black and a little box pops up on the screen so the actors can break character and strut their stuff as the credits roll, or you’ve lost me.

Advertisement

In my opinion, if you sit through two hours of a film, you deserve some sort of payoff at the end. Something that lets you know the cast members are all fun people who don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s nothing quite like that moment when you think the movie’s over, and then—WHAM!—they hit you with credits and…what’s this? An all-cast dance party!

The presence or absence of such a scene ultimately makes or breaks the film. In that instant when the actors suddenly let loose, bust a move, and start cutting up for the camera, we see cinema at its most powerful.

Just to clarify, it has to be the whole cast singing and dancing.

Remember the thrill at the end of Get Over It when everyone danced to Sisqó and Vitamin C in front of a green screen while neon-colored flowers rained down from the ceiling? Or when Josh Duhamel and Kristen Bell led the whole cast of When In Rome in a goofy post-wedding line dance in front of a bunch of famous landmarks? There, even the antagonists—whom we’ve hated throughout the movie—throw on some dancing shoes just to show you that everyone’s friends in real life and that they have loads of fun on set. Talk about an incredible film.

Advertisement

Here’s a tried-and-true technique that all filmmakers should be aware of: These sequences work best if a character who was uncoordinated in the movie surprises everyone by coming out of their shell during the dance and letting their inner diva shine.

You’ve got that, you’ve got me in the seat.

Just to clarify, it has to be the whole cast singing and dancing. In Mamma Mia! it’s only the three female leads who rock out to “Dancing Queen” in the little box next to the credits. That simply doesn’t work. I don’t care that the boys all parade out in sequined jumpsuits for the “Waterloo” encore. I want to see everyone dancing in the first song or not at all.

Advertisement

And while I appreciate the attempt, it never suffices to have credits rolling on top of the big musical number, as in Balls Of Fury and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I wanted to like those movies; I really did. But the disruptive overlay of credits completely ruined it. It has to be a box next to the credits. It shouldn’t be hard to mess up.

I understand that it may sound as if I’m too choosy, but I believe there’s a lot of room for individual creative direction here. Personally, I don’t care whether the characters come out in their normal attire, or if they emerge in entirely new dance outfits. Either way, it’s great cinema. And whether everyone dances in unison or the whole cast forms a circle and lets each character go into the middle one by one to show off their blazing moves, I won’t complain. There’s just so much artistic license for each individual filmmaker. To directors, I say: Let your imagination run wild, and make the cast dancing scene in that box next to the credits completely your own.

Lately, I’ve suffered through some real disappointments, from Birdman to 12 Years A Slave. But the letdown is nothing new. Consider The Godfather, which, despite its formidable ensemble cast, simply rolls its credits over a plain black screen. Surely, given its 1940s setting, the film could have ended with some big band–era swing dancing—perhaps an elaborate production in which the Five Families face off once more, but this time on the dance floor.

Advertisement

Maybe even an alive-and-well Sonny’s there, tearing it up in the middle of the crowd. Sounds perfect to me. I’m not sure how it never crossed Coppola’s mind, frankly.

By way of contrast, consider Blended: Not only do Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, and the whole gang dance alongside the African tribe we saw earlier in the film—there’s a fun little African-themed frame around the box where the dancing takes place! At the end of a viewing, I inevitably rewind to watch that part again and again.

Despite my high standards, I’ll often sit through a film even if I don’t think there will be any dancing in a box next to the credits. Viewing The Nut Job, I thought, “This is an expensive animated movie. They would never spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make everyone dance in a small, sectioned-off portion of the screen.” Then, much to my surprise, out popped Psy, who joined the animals for an irreverent take on “Gangnam Style.”

Advertisement

This is now my favorite movie of all time.

Looking at the arc of cinema history, I do believe we’ve come a long way in the decades since, for example, West Side Story, which, in spite of its extensive musical numbers right up to the main characters’ deaths, features no dancing or singing of any kind during its end credit sequence. Can you imagine?

Film certainly has made great strides in the 21st century. Now if we could only get Hollywood to stop putting out terrible movies in which, as soon as the credits finish rolling, the main character returns in an added scene and addresses the audience directly by saying, “You’re still here?” That’s just so cheesy and shameless.

Advertisement