A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Corny? There hasn't been a cornier romantic tear-jerker since “Love Story.” But John Avildsen's “Slow Dancing in the Big City” has the courage of its corniness, and its clichés aren't half-hearted. It may be that you don't fall for movies like this, that you like your heroes to be lean and cynical and your heroines to run their own cattle ranches. That's OK with me. “Slow Dancing in the Big City” cheerfully exists in the world of big hearts and brave tears and happy endings that make you blow your nose. It's a classic of melodramatic overachievement.
It involves a love story, of course. The guy is a hard-bitten New York newspaper columnist with a heart of gold, and the girl is a Canadian ballerina who learns, days before the big premiere, that she has bleeding tendons and can't go on. Right away we know we're in the right movie, even if the newspaper guy hadn't already appointed himself as guardian of an 11-year-old Puerto Rican kid who could be a great drummer, someday if he kicks his heroin habit.
The newspaper columnist hasn't seen “All the President's Men,” and so he doesn't know that newspaper movies have grown more realistic since the old “Deadline, U.S.A.” days. For example: He never goes to the office, he lives in a crummy apartment that Jimmy Breslin could rent with his pocket money, he still writes like Damon Runyan, pounding out prose poems on his battered portable (“When the Eskimo, adrift in the big city, saw the broken-hearted hillbilly jump off the bridge,” etc).
That's OK. We don't want a realistic newspaper movie. It's OK that this guy doesn't know they've thrown out the typewriters and switched to computer keyboards down at the office. The columnist is played by Paul Sorvino, an enormously appealing actor who looks big enough and talks tough enough to really be able to sell tenderness. You've seen him before; he was in “Blood Brothers” and looks at home in any scene involving a corner saloon.