Expecting the usual tedium that accompanies a summer in the Catskills with her family, 17-year-old Frances 'Baby' Houseman is surprised to find herself stepping into the shoes of a professional hoofer – and unexpectedly falling in love.
This was schmaltzy but decent and could have been a lot worse. Normally I run from this sort of film like the plague but Patrick Swayze's recent death and me greatly enjoying 'Point Break' recently made me want to check out another one of his finest roles ('Ghost' and 'Road House' will have to wait, methinks.). When I got my first DJ-ing job, working the night shift at the now-defunct K-102 FM in Woodstock as a teenager, I often received calls asking for any of the three hit songs from its stellar and nostalgia-wringing soundtrack: Eric Carmen's 'Hungry Eyes', Swayze's own 'She's Like the Wind' or the Oscar-winning 'The Time of My Life' by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. It was interesting now, almost three decades later, finally seeing the music I had played on the airwaves eon before now shown in some sort of cinematic context.
It was OK to see as a tribute to Swayze's craft (he was trained in classic ballet as well as in acting) but I'm left with no interest whatsoever in either the sequel or remake, unless as a special gift for my lady, Tammy.
Entertaining hit with lush Appalachian locations, but the writing doesn't respect the intelligence of the viewer
RELEASED IN 1987 and directed by Emile Ardolino, "Dirty Dancing" stars Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle, a working-class dance instructor at a mountain resort in the Catskills in 1963. Jennifer Grey costars as "Baby," the 17-year-old daughter of an affluent Jewish doctor vacationing at the resort. She takes the place of Johnny's dance partner after his partner gets pregnant, albeit not by Johnny. Baby naturally develops a crush.
This was the hit romantic drama of 1987, but it actually didn’t make as much at the domestic box office compared to the other two dance flicks of the 80s: “Flashdance” (1983) made $95 million and “Footloose” (1984) $80 million while “Dirty Dancing” brought it $64 million. The two main cast members are a highlight. Swayze was in his prime and Jennifer Grey cute & nimble, like a fawn. In reality Grey was 26 years-old during filming, although she passes for late teens pretty well. Swayze, however, was 34 and looked it, albeit trim and fit.
The lush Appalachian locations are outstanding and the story keeps your attention but you'll roll your eyes at the idiotic misunderstanding where Baby's father assumes Johnny's the one who got his partner pregnant and, for some strange reason, no one sets him straight. Not to mention, the characters always say the wrong thing at the wrong time, which perpetuates the misunderstanding. Also, the sexual union of Johnny & Baby is both premature and unbelievable in light of the time period, Baby's age (17 years-old) and her upbringing. Frankie Avalon was once asked about his early 60’s "Beach" movies if the male-female relationships were as "squeaky clean" as portrayed and he answered (paraphrasing): "As a teen back then 'going all the way' wasn't even considered an option." The obvious exception would be disreputable kids from the "other side of the tracks."
Moreover, the fact that Johnny is having sex with the doctor's daughter, a minor at that, can't win any points in his favor. Hence, even without the misunderstanding there's little reason for the father to warm up to Johnny. So why does the doctor show respect for Johnny at the end, a dude who's fornicating with his under-aged daughter and is clearly much older than her as well, although it could be argued that he’s naïve and doesn’t necessarily know they’re having sex already. Flaws like these smack of lazy writing and are offensive to anyone with an ounce of intelligence.
If you can look past these problems, however, the film is entertaining. The dance sequences shown in the staff area are akin to vertical sex with clothes on. I guess that's why it's called "Dirty Dancing," huh? Yet this is another flaw of the movie: these scenes are so amped-up and choreographed they shout to the viewer via megaphone: "This is A MOVIE; it's NOT REAL." Nonetheless, Grey's a cutie, Swayze's The Man and the beautiful Appalachian locations are a highlight, filmed at Mountain Lake Resort, Pembroke, Virginia, and Lake Lure, NC.
THE FILM RUNS 1 hour, 45 minutes. WRITER: Eleanor Bergstein.