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Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Dirty Dancing 2

Have the time of your life..all over again.

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 82 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey joined Wayne Sleep and Lionel Blair in the category titled “Great Cheesy Dancers of Our Time”, when they rubbed frantically up and down against one-another on a dance floor in 1987’s rubbish but fondly-remembered ‘Dirty Dancing’. This new spin on the tale, ‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ only gets it half right: i.e. it’s pretty rubbish as well, but it’s hard to imagine anyone remembering it nigh-on twenty years down the line.

The lead hip-jigglers this time around are two of cinema’s more promising young starlets, England’s Romola Garai and Mexico’s Diego Luna. It’s 1958, and Garai is young American gal Katey Miller, who’s just moved with her family to Cuba, a country teetering on the brink of revolution. She’s finding it difficult to settle in, until she spots hotel waiter Javier (Luna) dancing in the street with a kid who looks like Arnold from ‘Diff’rent Strokes’. She’s instantly drawn to him – and, with rhythm like that, who wouldn’t be?

Before long the pair of crazy kids are sneaking around behind everyone’s backs, secretly training themselves up for the obligatory end-of-movie dance contest. And I’m probably not giving too much away by saying that, by the end of the film, salsa isn’t the only thing to have crossed their filthy young minds.

It’s an awkward film to put into context with its predecessor, as it can hardly be called a remake (the story is just about different enough to escape that tag), and neither is it a sequel (none of the original characters reappear). There are, however, a few obvious nods in the direction of ‘DD1’ (as I’ve decided to start calling it). For one thing, there’s the title. Then there’s the occasional Latinized twang of ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’ creeping into the soundtrack. But, best of all, there’s the lurking background presence of Swayze himself, not reprising his role of Johnny Castle, but merely playing “Dance Class Instructor.” The face might have grown horrifically craggy over the years, and the gigantic mullet he once sported so proudly might be no more than a deeply-disturbing memory, but there’s no doubt about it: that’s Swayze alright.

If dancing’s your thing, you’re sure to enjoy the nicely-filmed salsa sequences. In fact, there’s little fault to find with anything the two leads do over the course of the film. Garai, in particular, is a delight to watch in everything she appears in (see last year’s ‘I Capture the Castle’), and this project could be just about high enough in profile to propel her towards serious stardom.

Unfortunately, as a story it has very little going for it. The decision to pay lip-service to Cuba’s political problems of the period is a major mistake, as this is essentially a lightweight piece of entertainment and shouldn’t pretend otherwise unless its heart is genuinely in it. In fact, the revolutionary antics of Javier and his family only serve to get in the way of the poor dialogue and so-so main plot we’re supposed to be concentrating on.

It's Got: Nothing “dirty” about it whatsoever. At the most there’s a bit of snogging.

It Needs: Swayze’s mullet. Despite everything I’ve said, I miss it dearly.


It might put you in the mood for dancing, and maybe even romancing, but sadly this film isn’t giving it all tonight.