Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Sorta Had the Time of My Life: "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" (2004)



While the original "Dirty Dancing" was a goofball throwback to letting your hair down and cutting loose, this film is a goofball throwback to letting your hair down and cutting loose in Cuba.

It is the fall of 1958. Brainy Katie (Romola Garai) is forced to move to Cuba thanks to Dad's (John Slattery) new job. The family, also including little sis Susie (Mika Boorem) and Mom (the always enchanting Sela Ward) settle in at the Hotel Oceana. Future preppie James (Jonathan Jackson) takes a liking to Katie right away, but Katie has eyes for cute waiter Javier (Diego Luna).

The film addresses racism and pre-revolutionary Cuba, as Katie and Javier grow closer thanks to a mutual love for dancing. Katie wants to loosen up her hoofing skills (Mom and Dad were ballroom dancers), and Javier is more than willing to show her. Of course, Katie does get some advice from PATRICK SWAYZE, doing a cameo and showing these snot nosed young uns that he can still tap a foot and make the ladies swoon. Katie and Javier keep their dancing a secret, and practice for the big dance contest. There is plenty of dancing, and kissing, but then Fidel Castro comes along and ruins everything!

I started out hating this film. Bratty teen grows up through The Dance, and learns to appreciate her square family...hmm, like the first film. But slowly, the film grew on me. Maybe it was some great location shooting (Puerto Rico standing in for Havana). The two leads have a great chemistry together, both on and off the dance floor. The direction and editing are crisp and fresh, never boring the viewer.

Like the first film, the song score is full of songs from the period, and songs that would never be mistaken for the period. I had a good idea where the film was going until the final fifteen minutes, when the Cuban Revolution suddenly popped up! There was no bloodshed, but the last quarter hour of the film is something I did not see coming. In the end, "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is purely average entertainment. Sure, I would have liked to see someone from the first film, besides Swayze, but this played more like a made-for-network-TV pilot instead of a major motion picture sequel, or remake, or whatever it is.

Nice cast, nice direction, enjoy it for ten minutes after it ends before you realize it stays with you about as long as a Chinese meal. (* * *) out of five stars. Watch this movie now!: Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights