The Good, the Groan Worthy and the Bad
New York City 1975 and Francis (Abigail Breslin) has gone to the Broadway musical "Dirty Dancing" which is based on her experiences back in the summer of 63 when she was still known to her family as Baby and she met her first love. His name was Johnny Castle (Colt Prattes) and he was a dance teacher at Kellermans Lodge where Baby and her family had gone for a rare holiday together. But for Baby's father, Dr. Jake Houseman (Bruce Greenwood), Johnny is not good enough for his daughter although for Mr. Houseman it is a summer which will force him to accept that things in his family are changing and not as perfect as they seem as his wife Marjorie (Debra Messing) has had enough of being ignored.
I think I am not alone when I say that when I discovered they were remaking "Dirty Dancing" my first thought was are they crazy as whilst the original 1987 version was not a great bit of movie making it is a great piece of entertainment which 30 years later still gains new fans. In fact I would go as far as saying I wondered what sort of actor and actress would agree to appear in a movie which everyone associates with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. But whilst I can't deny that there are parts of this 2017 musical re-imagining of "Dirty Dancing" which made me groan it also had some good ideas and it was these things which it adds to the familiar storyline which actually makes it watchable even if it is a case of being good, bad and seriously groan worthy.
Now the groan worthy parts unsurprisingly come from trying to recreate those iconic "Dirty Dancing" moments; when Colt Prattes as Johnny proclaims "Nobody puts baby in the corner" it isn't just cheesy, it is a whole warehouse of cheese as is the scene where Baby delivers the equally classic "I carried a watermelon" line. Of course with out these iconic moments this re-imagining wouldn't be "Dirty Dancing" and of course without Baby and Johnny it wouldn't be "Dirty Dancing" either. Now whilst Abigail Breslin brings a lot of likeability to the role of Baby Colt Prattes simply doesn't do it for me. But here is the thing, when you watched Swayze dance he had rhythm, swagger and oozed sex appeal, when Prattes dances he looks rigid and I hate to say it seems to be almost peacock like with his hair which beyond the lake scene seems to be completely rigid. And truth be told I don't think there is another actor who could have come even close to how Swayze played Johnny.
The thing is that I could mention other things which were bad about this 2017 version of "Dirty Dancing" yet there are some nice ideas introduced. The idea to turn it into a musical with songs for both of Baby's parents actually had potential although there needed to be more of these musical moments to feel like it believed it could be a musical. Then there is a whole subplot surrounding Baby's parent's marriage which is suffering because of her father never speaking to her mother when he comes home from work. There is even another subplot surrounding Baby's sister, nicely played by Sarah Hyland, becoming close to an African-American musician who is warned by band leader Tito that black boys and white girls should not mix. It is the focus on these additional elements where this 2017 version of "Dirty Dancing" works and actually saves itself because truth be told when it was over my initial distain for the movie had grown into a kind of like and I had a strange yearning to watch it again.
What this all boils down to is that I know there are those who won't really give this 2017 version of "Dirty Dancing" a chance because they are so attached to the original. But it is a movie, which despite struggling to escape from the groan and cheesy elements of trying to recreate iconic scenes, actually grows on you with some nice ideas and additions to the storyline. As such whilst it isn't as good as the Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey version this re-imagining is not as terrible as you might expect it to be as long as you do give it a chance and watch it all the way through