Sometimes, a movie goes so fast you wonder where the time has gone.
The Dancing Detective: A Deadly Tango was just that kind of movie, as it reunited Lacey Chabert and Will Kemp, allowing them to kick up their heels together once more — this time to solve a murder!
Did their natural chemistry work for or against this crime-solving duo?
In the movie, Chabert plays Constance Bailey, a seasoned detective who finds that working with a partner doesn’t work for her style.
Being a lone wolf might help her solve cases, but it does nothing for her chances at a promotion. Her department chief told her as much, but what he asked of her didn’t appear to sink in.
You knew that other than that quirk of self-imposed solitary confinement, she was excellent at her job when the Chief sent her to investigate an important case — the murder of a US Senator on foreign soil.
Fresh out of her cab at the destination resort where Mark Astin lost his life, eagle-eyed Bailey was almost run down by a striking red convertible. Not to worry, she had memorized the plate — and the driver’s face.
Of course, that dashing driver was Kemp’s Sebastian, an actor full of himself enough to win admirers from every direction.
His lengthier introductory scene featured the talented dancer oozing a nutty charm on the dance floor as he taught hotel guests how to trip the light fantastic.
Having had the pleasure to interview Will Kemp before, I know how much he enjoys broad comedy, and those scenes proved not only his love for them but how well he succeeds at bringing a smile to even the unhappiest faces.
With his touch, Sebastian was the kind of character who would grate on Bailey’s nerves. And he did, at first.
Sebastian: You lie very well.
Bailey: And are a constant delight.
Sebastian: Oh, I see what you did there.
Bailey: Maybe I should be an actor. How hard could it be?
Chabert didn’t lean as heavily into comedy, despite how much Bailey reminded me of many of Sandra Bullock’s detective characters with her well-put-together look and desire to stay on task rather than stray too far from her goal.
Still, there were a few segments where Chabert got a little goofy, including one scene in which she was dreaming about Sebastian and kissing a pillow in her arms. Bailey played it off well because that embarrassing moment could have defined her!
There were plenty of suspects for Bailey and Sebastian to investigate, and much to her surprise, his instincts in that department were pretty good.
OK, listen, Miss Marple. Let’s just have lunch and leave the detective work to me.
Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to consider that one person asking a bunch of questions could come off a little strange, while two would allow less of an interrogational appearance.
And, of course, using the flies and honey of it all, an attractive man chatting up a woman and a woman doing the same with a man could have desired effects (with some assumptions on the part of the questioners and viewer, anyway).
That these two quickly walked in lockstep with the investigation is a lot easier to imagine than how quickly Bailey, who had never danced once in her life if we’re to believe it, took to ballroom dancing.
I’ve never really had a dance partner, but I did get my butt out on the floor with my friends. Even having those normal life experiences, I think my ability, with only one short training, not to make a complete mockery of myself with a partner would be highly suspect.
Sebastian: So, which suspect should we target first?
Bailey: Let’s just finish the dance lesson, Poirot.
So, yes, it was improbable that Bailey would take to it as quickly as she did.
We know that it’s not Chabert’s first time in Kemp’s arms, and it’s a romantic-leaning mystery that plays well into their chemistry, so it required only slight suspended disbelief to sit back and enjoy the ride… or the slide, to get a little lingo-istic (there’s me making up words!).
I wonder, though, if you think that the mystery, the dancing, or both suffered just a bit in the plausibility department because they were trying hard to capture all that we love about a Chabert-Kemp flick.
Even if Sebastian explained the Tango as more of a walk with attitude than an actual dance (which I thought was a fun idea in concept), it was easier to believe that they scored early chemistry points than that they could have danced so well in even a corporate competition against partners who had time to practice.
The supporting cast wasn’t much more than stereotypical corporate types with possible motives for murder.
Unlike characters from other Hallmark Movies & Mysteries fare, none lept off the screen. I wasn’t particularly invested in any of them or their causes. They may have been corporate types, but this is no Succession, and the characters lacked depth.
The same could be said of the actual murderer, a woman with a chip on her shoulder after the death of her father, the company CFO, a year prior.
She was sure that his death resulted from the company working him to death.
But the real motivation for her anger was that he died before his golden parachute opened, which left nothing for her by inheritance.
Ultimately, there were no winners in this mystery other than Bailey and Sebastian, and that was surely the point, right?
They became pretty close, and Bailey realized that with the right person, working in a partnership had many advantages. Whether that particular union will do much for her career is up for debate.
But the Chief did say that Interpol was watching. Maybe they have some groovy program that brings civilians and detectives together to solve cases. Hey, it’s a movie! Those things happen all the time.
Whenever Hallmark uses the coloned approach to titles, I imagine the door is open for future endeavors. The Dancing Detective as a series? I’d watch it. Chabert and Kemp are magic together, and Bailey’s got hundreds of more detective references to use when she chides Sebastian.
I don’t know how many murders come with the need to dance through the suspects, but it could be fun to find out what a pair of globetrotting sambaing sleuths could accomplish.
We won’t know whether this is the first in a series or a one-off until a follow-up is announced, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. How about you?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.