Dirty Dancing celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. For a film that most people expected to flop, you might say it’s done pretty well since its 1987 debut. So, of course, ABC thought the best thing to do was to remake a classic. That rarely works out well. And this won’t. Mark my words: ABC’s Dirty Dancing remake will ruin your childhood. Yes, it’s that bad.
It’s difficult to figure out what the absolute worst part of this made-for-tv monstrosity is, but let’s take a crack at some of the worst of the worst.
Let’s talk about the total lack of chemistry between leads Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes.
I’ve watched enough interviews and featurettes about the original Dirty Dancing to know that Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze weren’t exactly besties after working on Red Dawn together. And, as Den of Geek recently covered fairly well, the original 1987 film faced tons of struggles on its way to becoming a legend. But then something happened with this incredibly low-budget film that never should have become the massive success it’s known to be today: Swayze and Grey just…clicked.
Baby and Johnny were magic.
One of the original film’s iconic scenes came about because the producers were smart enough to let Swayze’s actual frustration with Grey just happen. You don’t mess with perfection, after all.
But then ABC decided to remake that perfection with two leads who couldn’t be more wrong for each other…and well. Dirty Dancing just kind makes you feel, well, dirty. It’s almost as if everything that should have failed about the original comes back to fail in the remake — with a vengeance.
The characterization is a giant NO FROM ME.
So, nobody will ever be Patrick Swayze. I went into the Dirty Dancing remake knowing that; but then I was kind of excited because Colt Prattes was in Pink’s “Try” video, which I loved. What I’m saying here is your boy can dance.
Prattes can not, however, get Johnny Castle right to save his life. He’s like an overly-exaggerated Fonz at best, a caricature of everything wrong with this film at worst. And honestly, for a guy who did that in Pink’s video? I wasn’t impressed with his moves here, either. Then, again…
See also: Nobody will ever be Swayze. While we’re at it, nobody will ever be Jennifer Grey, either.
Breslin’s Baby is a little bit too awkward for comfort. Grey’s had a special charm that Breslin’s lacks; but Breslin’s advantage over the undeniably iconic original is that she actually looks like she can’t dance. This new Baby doesn’t pick up Johnny’s choreography as quickly as the 1987 version. She also doesn’t look perfectly polished by the final scene as Grey did.
That’s both a positive and a negative, really. I want to see good dancing? But realism is fun.
That brings us to Sarah Hyland’s portrayal of Lisa Houseman, which takes itself far too seriously. Lisa was the caricature in the original Dirty Dancing. In this…I don’t know, people. I just. Don’t. Know. And she’s even able to sing? What?
Ummm, and Dr. Jake Houseman is kind of a douche, rather than Jerry Orbach’s doting father who just didn’t want to let his Baby grow up. There’s a subtlety that Orbach understood, and it made a huge difference in the general feel of the story. Bruce Greenwood, apparently, didn’t take notes. Even his “when I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” line is lacking any kind of conviction. That was always a powerful moment for Dr. Houseman. Not anymore.
So, he’s an emotionless sort of douche.
They…sing…and the music is all covers…ok…wtf.
Every ounce of charm the original film had is immediately taken over by a sense of “what is even happening” in the Dirty Dancing remake. A lot of this comes from the randomized sing-alongs and terrible covers of the beloved music. Even “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” becomes this…thing. It’s awful.
If the new take on Dirty Dancing ended on that bizarre note, it would be bad enough; but then there’s the actual ending that will basically ruin everything all over again. I won’t give it away, but dear God…Just why?
Actual notes taken while watching the Dirty Dancing remake:
- “…the summer I stopped being the baby for good.” Ok. This is way too heavy-handed.
- Wtf is wrong with Johnny’s hair?
- Nope. Only Jennifer Grey is allowed to talk about carrying a watermelon. You lose, Abigail Breslin.
- I feel like this is a sin. Making this was a sin. Me watching it is a sin. I need to go visit Swayze’s grave and light candles.
- In this version, Penny’s always nice? Seems fake.
- Neil Kellerman gets to mansplain feminism hardcore to the brilliant Baby, but he doesn’t come off as a jackass in the process? Definitely fake.
- This cover of “Hungry Eyes” can f- right off.
- That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
- There is nothing that can f- off more than this “She’s Like The Wind” cover. It’s just wrong. Either get the real soundtrack or no. It’s like some kind of techno trash thing? Who allowed this???
- “I had the time of my life with you this summer.” Blahblah. “I love you.” This is garbage cheese. Not the epic love story of the original. Garbage. Stick to the original dialogue. It was perfect. Hell, just edit over the whole thing with Swayze’s outtakes at this point.
- They’re missing the little nod before the lift. Also rude. I need to watch the original to cleanse my palate.
- “Keep on dancing.” “You too, Johnny.” No.
There are some elements that make this whole thing watchable — almost.
- Give me a film of nothing but Katey Sagal’s Vivian Pressman, and we’ll be in business. For as bad as most of the characterization was, Sagal made Vivian so. much. better. Pro-tip: Coming from someone who never misses Dirty Dancing on tv, despite having several “special” editions of the dvd, that’s a compliment.
- The clubhouse scene is bigger than in the original. More dancing? Would’ve been here for that.
- Rather than just a hint of Robbie’s despicable behavior toward Lisa, we actually get to see the scene play out. It’s a moment that will be far too familiar to far too many women.
- “Why do you think that, just because a guy goes to Harvard or Yale, he’s perfect?” Really, though.
- Baby actually gets to argue with her father about Penny’s “situation.” The abortion discussion is, as always, painfully relevant. There were some other relevant topics added to the Dirty Dancing remake that are thought-provoking enough to be bonuses…even if they kind of take away from Baby and Johnny’s love story. Which is, you know, kind of the whole point of the film.
ABC’s Dirty Dancing remake airs Wednesday, May 24, at 8:00.
Bring the booze, folks. You’re going to need it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to light those candles to Mr. Swayze and beg that he forgive me for watching this sin against him.1 of 1