Dotty Winters had never seen Dirty Dancing. We know, right? So we sat her down and made her watch both the original and its sequel at once.
I have a terrible confession to make. I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing. I’m not an idiot, I know this is a terrible omission, so I decided to grab the opportunity with both (left) feet and sit down to see if Dirty Dancing, and the less historically significant sequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights are rated or dated.
I’ve not been living in a bubble so I did know a few things about Dirty Dancing before watching it, specifically:
• That dance lift
• Someone lifts a watermelon
• Someone tries to put an infant in a corner.
I was also aware that it stars Patrick Swayze, before he was in Ghost, or a ghost, and Jennifer Grey after she was Ferris Bueller’s sister and before she was busy being in ‘You won’t believe what this star looks like now’ articles. (Spoiler alert: she had a nose job, she looked incredible before and after. The internet should spend less time worrying about other people’s noses.)
In order to give the film a fair chance, as I watched I had to park a number of intrusive thoughts. I’ve left them here in case we need them later:
• Wait, isn’t that Augustus Gloop’s dad?
• Woah! Did that guy just instruct the waiters to sexually harass young women? Who is responsible for HR policy in this place?
• Why don’t her boobs move when she does that? What is that crop top made of, Tupperware?
• Holy crap, what are they feeding the watermelons round these parts?
• Patrick Swayze is the best at wearing a vest and dance sex, and pottery sex.
It is always a bit of a worry to me to watch a film which is so widely loved. I worry that maybe it will be a ‘you had to be there’ situation and that all these years later, things will have moved on and it will be impossible to time travel back to what you all saw in this.
I expected Dirty Dancing to be a classic cheese fest and I was as wrong-footed as pre-montage Baby, finding it engrossing, powerful and moving. There is some genuine depth to this film in its portrayal of class issues, self-esteem and privilege and what it means to do the right thing.
The script isn’t the snappiest, the story isn’t ground-breaking and even some of the dancing isn’t quite what it could be, but somehow none of that matters. This film has endured by brilliantly capturing teenage awkwardness, first romance and annoying parents. I get it Dirty Dancing fans, I get it.
The moral of the story is hammered home pretty hard (do the right thing, stand up for what you believe, grind your pelvis) although for me, the lasting lesson for me from this film is that you should never let your sister do your hair. (Honestly, Baby never looks worse in this than after her sister gives her that makeover.)
Somehow the film manages to look and feel pretty current considering it’s been kicking around for nearly 30 years: from Baby’s Breton-top-white-trainers combo, to a very 2016 lipsync battle and a slightly 2014 flashmob dance sequence.
Jennifer Grey delivers a completely charming performance, convincingly balancing naivety with steel. Patrick Swayze is Patrick Swayze; it’s what he was always really good at, and in this film he is pretty perfect. He is so perfect that we can probably overlook his ‘sing the theme tune’ moment.
Overall, Strictly-Come-Butlins gets a nine from me (marks deducted for wonky watermelons).
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Readers note: I had to eat a massive lasagne before I tackled DD2 (because: hungry eyes).
Sequels to popular films don’t have a great track record, so my expectations for Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights were low. It’s not terrible and it has some sweet callbacks to the original.
Does it have the depth, emotional impact, clever script, charm and satisfying ending of the original? Hell no. Do some pretty steamy dance sequences, some nice performances and a cameo from Swayze make up for that? Kinda. Does the revolutionary story line seem a little try-hard? Yup. Are Roger Sterling and Betty Draper from Mad Men in it? Yuppity yep.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights doesn’t live up to the original. I’m not sure how it could have. If you only watch one, make it the first one, but if you have 86 minutes to spare and a hankering for Mad Men does Latin night on Strictly, give this a whirl.
When it comes to the script, treat it like you would you a bad-tempered child: ignore it, it will only disappoint you. I’ll be honest, my tolerance for both actual and figurative cheese is pretty high so this film might still make it into my duvet day rotation. I’d tell you which other films are on that list, but you might never speak to me again.
Rated or dated? I’ve had the time of my life. RATED.
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Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.