"Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is the "Tokyo Drift" of the dance movie world, they've taken a story, one which is loosely based on the life of producer JoAnn Fregalette Jansen, and then branded it as a "Dirty Dancing" sequel and got Patrick Swayze to return for a cameo because it guaranteed interest. But it is a mistake as whilst it is a dance movie, with similar themes to "Dirty Dancing" it forces you to compare and in comparison "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is weak. The branding is not the only issue as the romantic spark and humour is not that great and whilst it features a decent soundtrack the actual dancing isn't that spectacular. Ironically if they hadn't tried to jump on the shirt tails of "Dirty Dancing" then maybe "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" would have come across a bit better but as it stands it is weak.
It's 1958 and when her dad's job means the family have to move Cuba Katy Miller (Romola Garai) finds herself in a world of political unrest and living in a swanky hotel. It is in the hotel where she first meets local Javier Suarez (Diego Luna - Open Range), a waiter, and when she then sees him later on dancing in the town square befriends him. Unfortunately being friends leads to Javier being fired and to make amends Katey persuades him to partner her in a dancing competition at the local Palace Club. Secretly meeting to practice they find themselves falling in love but when Katey's parents discover she has been seeing Javier they are less than impressed and with political unrest making life unsafe it maybe that love will be short.
Now as already mentioned "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is reportedly based on the life of producer JoAnn Fregalette Jansen and her experience of moving to Cuba with her family in 1958. But right from the start the emphasis is on trying to make it feel like a sequel and we get an opening narration from Katey which mirrors in style and tone that of Baby's and immediately it feels like it is trying too hard to be similar. We may then get the story of Katy's family moving because of her dad's job but again we get the similarity as she meets the son of her dad's boss who takes a shine to her similar to Baby's issue with Neil Kellerman in the original. And I could go on because there is a lot of mirroring going on throughout the entire movie most of which feels like it is trying too hard to be like "Dirty Dancing".
And to be honest whilst the story focuses on Katey falling for local waiter Javier, and we get the back drop of political unrest in Cuba, the theme of the movie is still the same, that of social divide. Once again we have Katey keeping her friendship with Javier a secret because he is from a lower class than her family and when her parents discover they are not happy to discover not only that she has been lying but also dating someone below themselves. The irony is it's not a bad storyline, not by any means original but because the movie has been turned into "Dirty Dancing 2" it feels even more unoriginal.
And I could continue because whilst we have different scenes including minor scenes of political unrest everything builds to a predictable ending, not only when it comes to the romance but also the dancing. Talking of which unfortunately when it comes to dancing chemistry there is little between actors Diego Luna and Romola Garai and it makes all the dancing and training feel too choreographed. The dancing side also gives us the one real connection to "Dirty Dancing" and that is a cameo from Patrick Swayze as a dance teacher who specialises in the Mambo. Now from what I watched Swayze's character is never called Johnny Castle but it is so obvious who he is supposed to be.
And to be honest that is really it because when it comes to the acting it is not bad but neither is it memorable. As already mentioned the chemistry between Diego Luna and Romola Garai is not there and so whilst they may look good individually when they come together it just doesn't set the screen alight. In fact John Slattery who plays Katy's father Bert ends up more memorable because he gives his character different tones especially when he discovers what Katy has been up to.
What this all boils down to is that "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is not a good movie and whilst turning this story into a sequel to "Dirty Dancing" was a huge mistake it does have other flaws which drag it down. It's not completely terrible and worth watching just for the great soundtrack more than anything else.