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Julia Stiles has already played Kate in 10 Things I Hate About You, the teen-flick Taming of the Shrew, and Ophelia in the lower-Manhattan-chic Hamlet, and she will soon be seen in an updated Othello dubbed O. Now she’s the female lead in MTV Films’ latest youth-marketing exercise, Romeo and Juliet Stage “Flashdance” on Chicago’s South Side, aka Save the Last Dance. Stiles is Sara, tragic small-town girl thrust into a tough-‘hood high school, and co-star Sean Patrick Thomas plays Derek, part-time gangsta headed for Georgetown University and medical school. The crucial malefactor, however, is director Thomas Carter, whose Swing Kids is perhaps the most offensively stupid dance flick of the last century. The premise of that film, set in ’30s Hamburg, is that boys just want to have fun—but the Nazis won’t let ’em. Save the Last Dance takes a similarly trenchant approach to interracial dating: He’s a little bit hiphop; she’s a little bit ballet. The new couple has some problems—Derek’s sister (and Sara’s friend) Chenille objects to the romance, and Derek’s childhood pal Malakai wants to lead him into a gang war that might not look good on his Georgetown application. These conflicts play out at a curiously glamorous neighborhood hiphop club that seems to cater to high-schoolers with fake IDs, and they culminate with an audition in which Sara hiphops her way into Juilliard. Note to Flashdance fans: There’s no welding. —Mark Jenkins