Main cast: Abigail Breslin (Frances “Baby” Houseman), Colt Prattes (Johnny Castle), Sarah Hyland (Lisa Houseman), Nicole Scherzinger (Penny), Tony Roberts (Max Kellerman), J Quinton Johnson (Marco), Shane Harper (Robbie Gould), Trevor Einhorn (Neil Kellerman), Beau Casper Smart (Billy Kostecki), Katey Sagal (Vivian Pressman), Billy Dee Williams (Tito Suarez), Bruce Greenwood (Dr Jake Houseman), and Debra Messing (Marjorie Houseman)
Director: Wayne Blair
A major spoiler is mentioned here, and frankly, it’s a spoiler that will likely make fans of the original movie fling things at the screen. Don’t read, or do read; either way, you’ve been warned.
Now, I don’t view the original Dirty Dancing as one of my favorite romantic movies ever, but I do appreciate what it tried to do. It is a romantic drama that also has a few things to say about class issues and privileges in the 1960s, all of which left a big impact on the relationship between rich girl Frances “Baby” Houseman and working class Johnny Castle. Plus, the music is nice.
Hence, when I realize that they remade the movie, and this Dirty Dancing is a musical to boot, I called up a few friends that are certainly bigger fans of the original movie than me, to find out why I’m as usual the last to know about this. One insists that this movie doesn’t exist, and judging from her tone, I suspect she has seen it and is now still recovering from the trauma. Another warns me that I will regret spending even a second to watch what she calls “an abomination”. Naturally, because it’s not like I can go outside and party these days, I have to watch this thing.
The story line of this one is essentially the same as the original, with some cosmetic changes. Now set in the 1970s, Baby is vacationing with her wealthy family at a posh resort, when she sees and develops a crush on dance instructor Johnny Castle. She becomes more involved with him when she tries to help his girlfriend Penny get an abortion, with Penny getting knocked up by another guy and all, and in the process, gets to dry hump Johnny and more.
Well, there are some differences, though, notably with the addition of unconvincing music numbers that are lip-synced by folks that look like they are way out of their element. Well, aside from Nicole Scherzinger, that is, as she’s actually a singer and dancer.
Seriously, why on earth would they cast Abigail Breslin as Baby? She really can’t dance, even for the grand number, so she is a dud as far as trying to convince me that Baby is passionate about dancing. Ms Breslin is an actress one calls when the role requires minimal need for facial expressions and vigorous motions, so she’s way out of her depths here. Why her, anyway? I’m pretty sure the cast of Glee—the ones that are still alive and aren’t behind bars anyway—would love a chance to be in this one, as it’s not like many of them are particularly busy these days, so I don’t know why they didn’t call one of those people. At the very least, get one of the better dancers to do the dancing scenes, then CGI Ms Breslin’s face over that person’s, or something like that. As it is, there’s something surreal about seeing thus Baby prance around like a pregnant llama while everyone hollers and cheers her on like she’s a star on the floor. It’s like I’m high on drugs and am seeing things.
Now, let’s talk about the late Patrick Swayze. I won’t call him handsome, as a different kind of aesthetics define my idea of “hot”, but in that original movie, oh mama, Mr Swayze was hot. The way he moved, with that swagger, and the ass, oh my. Here, though, someone decided to cast Cole Prattes, whose biggest gig to date was being that shirtless guy in some music video with P!nk. Sure, he’s a dancer, but he’s a dancer with a single facial expression and an acting ability that can euphemistically described as “Well, at least it’s a bit better than Abigail Breslin’s!”. Here’s the thing: Ms Prattes has a nice body, but he’s not sexy, if I am making sense. Sex appeal goes beyond having just a chiseled body, it also includes the swagger, the bearing, the way the man looks at you, the smile, and everything else. Given that Mr Prattes has little of all of those, yeah, he’s not sexy.
He and Ms Breslin have so little chemistry together, it’s like watching two strangers awkwardly forced to play lovers in a stage play they are both in for the very first time. Of course, this could be due to the fact that the two lead actors have, shall we say, below adequate emotive abilities necessary for starring in a romantic movie. Maybe this is for the best, as they don’t end up together. Yes, people, this is the major spoiler I’ve warned you all earlier: this is a summer fling, basically, because eventually Baby marries some other guy and rather rudely rubs that in to Johnny when they meet again as adults. In this instance, yes, I can see why they eventually break up after this movie because these two have zero electricity together and their love scene is like an awkward gynecology examination.
There is an unintentional and unfortunate implication to that ending, as it basically shows how we have this wealthy rich girl using the working class guy to get her rocks off and have fun, before going back to her privileged life and marry someone from that circle of hers. This goes against everything the original movie wanted to say, and worse, it also goes against what this movie is trying to say.
You see, the movie attempts to introduce an even more heavy-handed PSA on class differences, et cetera, and they even created a magic black guy for this remake in order to teach Baby’s sister the true meaning of life or something. After all, POCs exist solely to accessorize and uplift white people, don’t you know. Hence, the fact that the movie preaches all this and still can’t follow through by having the working class man and the rich woman having a happy life together makes the movie come off as hypocritical. Also, while I have nothing against the messages of girl power and what not, their inclusion here is clumsily done. Hunny’s parents reconcile after hovering at the brink of divorce, lonely divorcées claiming that they deserve to be happy too, and my favorite, the two token black guys talking about how the world is now a more inclusive place. The latter is certainly right, because now these movies are letting two, instead of one, token black characters to share the screen with white people, ooh, but even then, these black folks have better stand there in the sidelines as bit characters. Seriously, can Hollywood introduce social justice elements in a more organic way into their movies that do not resemble ticking off a checklist and insulting the very characters they claim to be uplifting for the sake of progress?
This Dirty Dancing is ultimately a movie filled to stupefying levels with chemistry-free bad acting and a romance that is barely one. The secondary cast members are better actors, but their subplots are Lifetime movie clichés compressed into underdeveloped bits that serve as a break from the bad acting hour of the two main leads. Is this movie for real, or are the people behind it just making this to get a tax write-off? Why watch this thing at all when the original movie still exists?
No, seriously, don’t watch this.