If you’ve never seen the original, you’ll like Dirty Dancing the redo. If you were smitten by the heartwarming 1987 release, you may want to dig it out of your DVD pile and watch it. While the redo follows all the beats of the classic coming of age drama, there are some things that just may grate on the nerves of purists.
Diving right in, the casting is just a bit off; Abigail Breslin’s Baby probably should have gone to Sarah Hyland (who plays Baby’s sister). And Colt Prattes is simply too much Lords of Flatbush for the Johnny Castle role, lacking the vulnerability this tender love story calls for. He comes across as self absorbed and a bit arrogant. His Johnny is also damaged goods with an extensive criminal past, as opposed to the original Johnny who eked out an honest living as a painter/plasterer. So Baby saying that Johnny is a lot like her father just rings false.
Next comes the key scene: Baby’s baptism into dirty dancing at the staff dance party. Sadly this too falls flat without the energetic rendition of Do You Love Me by the Contours. Instead we have one of the staff singing Otis Redding’s Love Man. A great classic, but Do You Love Me fits this intro scene to a T.
Later, showing Johnny bedding Katy Sagal’s cougar Vivian (as opposed to simply implying it with dialog) underscores what we don’t like about Johnny. And while his sultry rendition of Fever with Sagal is entertaining, it’s just another reminder of Johnny’s “watch me sing and dance” self-absorbed lothario persona. In the original film, Johnny didn’t appear to enjoy dancing with Vivian, which is why he and Baby dovetailed so nicely; but here, the Vivian-Johnny chemistry is where the real heat emanates.
Showing Lisa and Robbie (Shane Harper) making out at the lakeshore and her flirting with black piano man (Christopher Long) gets us needlessly involved in Lisa’s story, which oddly seems to compete with Baby’s. The same holds true for the mini-B story of the Houseman’s rekindling their romance, a segue that nearly takes on a life of its own. Nicole Scherzinger’s Penny faithfully reproduces her role as dance mentor in trouble, rescued by Baby and her father. Incidentally, Trevor Einhorn is a watered down Neil, without the over-the-top arrogance and geeky persona that made audiences laugh. In some ways, the new Neil is almost suitable for Baby.
The magic of Eric Carmen’s Hungry Eyes as Johnny helps Baby through her routine is one of those “movie must haves.” Regrettably, the song is replaced by a milquetoast imitation that accompanies the Johnny-Baby dance as it sinks to room temperature. The heat and sultry moves are simply not there in these studio practice routines.
And while it’s fun to watch Penny sing and dance as she helps Baby master the art of letting the man lead, it again robs us of the Baby-Johnny heat so eloquently portrayed in the original. The film comes closest to generating the kind of incendiary passion we saw in the original during their Love Is Strange tease dance.
The dance finale is also a bit disappointing. Having the two leads sing Bill Medley’s classic, The Time of My Life is a near miss. We want to see how Baby has improved her dancing not listen to her sing. The film’s ending, while emotional, denies us the imaginative conclusion each of us had conjured up in our own minds about the ultimate fate of Baby and Johnny.
All told, we have to give the cast and everyone involved kudos for the courage and work it took to remake this iconic classic.
Dirty Dancing 2017 will be available on DVD June 27th.