People have probably been saying for years that a remake of Dirty Dancing would be a bad idea. Well, it happened! 30 years after the hugely popular 1987 movie starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, the people in TV land decided to make this new version, directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires), I only watched it to compare it with the original. Basically in the summer of the 1960s, Frances "Baby" Houseman (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin) is vacationing with her family, her doctor father Jake (Bruce Greenwood), mother Marjorie (Will & Grace's Debra Messing) and sister Lisa (Sarah Hyland), at Kellerman's resort in the Catskill Mountains. Baby develops a crush on the resort's dance instructor Johnny Castle (newcomer Colt Prattes), she is fascinated by his "dirty dancing", his dance partner is Penny Rivera (Nicole Scherzinger). Baby discovers Penny is pregnant by womanising waiter Robbie Gould (Shane Harper), Baby borrows money from her father, she does not tell him it is for an illegal abortion for Penny, she accepts the money. But Penny and Johnny are due to perform a weekly dance at a nearby resort, she will miss the performance if she goes ahead with the abortion, Penny suggests Johnny to teach Baby to dance and take her place. Johnny begins to teach Baby, the practising starts awkwardly, but she gradually begins to improve, and a romantic attraction develops between them, their performance is mostly successful, although Baby was too nervous to do the final lift. Johnny and Baby return to find Penny in agony, it turns out the doctor who performed the abortion was a back alley hack, Jake treats her, despite her anger with Baby using money to pay for the procedure, he forbids her to associate with Johnny. Meanwhile Marjorie feels alienated by Jake, who hardly pays her any attention and shows little affection, she says that she wants a divorce, but Jake makes an effort to show her how much he really loves her, they reconcile and have sex. Also, Penny rejects the advances of Robbie, she befriends the resort's African-American pianist Marco (J. Quinton Johnson), his boss Tito (Star Wars' Billy Dee Williams) objects to their relationship, Marco teaches her to play the ukulele in preparation for the talent show. Johnny is accused of the theft of the watch belonging to the former husband of Vivian Pressman (Katey Sagal), which was deliberately planted, but Baby confirms that it was not him that stole it, because he spent the night with her, he is cleared, but Max Kellerman (Tony Roberts) still fires Johnny, he leaves, Baby is very upset. The end-of-season talent show is in progress, Jake takes back a recommendation letter for medical school for Robbie when he reveals he got Penny pregnant, Johnny appears following Lisa's performance, he explains to the audience that he always performs the last dance of the season. Baby and Johnny perform a more provocative version of their Mambo duet, other dancers join, Baby runs to Johnny and executes the lift they'd practised, all guests join the celebration, Jake apologises to Johnny and reconciles with "Frances", the couple embrace and everyone dances joyously. It then forwards to the 1970s, Frances attends a performance of "Dirty Dancing" on Broadway, choreographed by Johnny and inspired by her book, Frances was given the faith to pursue a career because of Johnny, but now she is now married with a daughter, seeing each other Johnny and Frances encourage each other to continue dancing. Also starring Beau Casper Smart as Billy Kotsecki and Trevor Einhorn as Neil Kellerman. Breslin is not as pretty or slender as Grey was, Prattes is a professional dancer, but can't act well enough, together there is hardly any real spark, Scherzinger, Greenwood and Messing are alright. There are plenty of problems with this remake, most of the acting, the naff new versions of the popular songs, including "Hungry Eyes", "She's Like the Wind" and of course "(I've Had) The Time of My Life", supporting characters are given unnecessary extended subplots, making the film almost half an hour longer. But the one thing I cannot forgive is the horrible ending, breaking up the lovers and having them go on to have new lives, it completely ruins the happy ending, up until that moment I may have forgiven most of the film for its foibles, this is a remake to avoid, die-hard fans should stick with the superior original, a terrible romantic drama. Pretty poor!
I found it interesting that the setting of "Dirty Dancing" is at a resort in the Catskills. This is because the film and the actual resorts were quite different. Originally, resorts in the Catskill Mountains region sprung up because Jewish families (mostly from New York City) wanted to vacation but in the early to mid-20th century, anti-Semitism meant Jews were not especially welcome in many traditional vacation spots...so they essentially built their own. And, from the early 20th century to the late 60s, these so-called 'Borscht Belt' resorts were popular and packed. But, in recent years, the decline in anti-Semitism, the discontinuation of railroad lines to the area and the new highway system sparked a decline in folks wanting to vacation there...and soon Jewish (and some non-Jewish) families began vacationing other places....and the resorts faded*. I mention all this because when you watch the film, you can't tell anything is Jewish about the resort--the residents, the food or, well, pretty much anything. And, you learn nothing about the history of the places...which is pretty interesting, especially when you read about it and learn about the dozens of famous Jewish comedians who plied their trade and often got their starts at these resorts.The film begins when the Houseman family arrive at one of these resorts for vacation. The oddly named 'Baby' Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is a very kind-hearted young lady, as when she learns that one of the dancers at the resort is pregnant, she tries to do what she can to help. Much of this is training with Johnny (Patrick Swayze) to fill in for his pregnant dance partner who is pregnant. Ultimately, however, this ends up putting her in hot water with her father (Jerry Orbach), as he thinks that Baby is having an affair with Johnny ...and that Johnny ALSO is the guy who got this other girl pregnant. Well, Dad is right that Johnny and Baby are in love...but he's not the pig who got the girl pregnant and then walked away. This is the major tension through most of the film. And, because of that, Baby has to sneak around to see Johnny...that is, of course, until the end of the film.While the story and romance are pretty good, the reason to see this film (and hear it) is because of all the great old tunes from the 60s as well as the iconic tunes from the 80s that became ubiquitous on the radio following the release of this film. So many Top 10 songs from this film....ones that if you lived through the era you'll never forget. My only complaint is minor...some of the hairstyles and fashions occasionally look MUCH more like the 80s than the 60s! Still, an excellent and unique movie...one you really should see.*By the 1980s, nearly all of the old Catskills resorts had closed. Because of that, Virginia and North Carolina fill in for New York State in this film.
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