Friday, Feb. 27
"Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is an all-too-conventional romantic drama with hot Latin music and dance, which Lions Gate and Miramax Films are enterprising enough to release with the "Dirty Dancing" imprint. The film bears no relationship to the 1987 hit film other than the resemblance of the sultry salsa dancing in 1958 Cuba to that film's American dirty dancing in the 1960s. Given the ingredients thrown into the mix here -- interracial romance, the Cuban Revolution, clashes of culture, the fusing of different '50s dance styles and the social ferment on the Havana streets -- it's disappointing the film is so sketchy and underdeveloped. The filmmakers may have sold their story short.
Diego Luna, the young star of "Y Tu Mama Tambien", demonstrates again that he has the makings of an international star while Romola Garai
, who previously starred in "I Capture the Castle", brings freshness and vivacity to the role of a bookish high school student who discovers life and love Cuban-style on the eve of Castro's Revolution. With a hot soundtrack of Afro-Cuban and Latin music and a range of dance styles from choreographer JoAnn Jansen, director Guy Ferland pretty much delivers on the promise of "dirty dancing." But the film fritters away its dramatic punch with unrealized characters and a lackluster ending. Consequently, boxoffice prospects are only fair.
Katey Miller (Garai), 18, reluctantly moves with her parents and kid sister to Havana in 1958 when her dad gets a job there with Ford. Suddenly installed in a suite at a luxury hotel, Katey is expected to hang out with the country club set, which is definitely not her scene.
Her parents, Jeannie (an unusually stiff Sela Ward
) and Bert (John Slattery), are former professional dancers, who gave that up to pursue the more middle-class goals of business exec and housewife. Two young men take an immediate shine to Katey. James (Jonathan Jackson), the son of her dad's boss, eagerly invites her to a country club dance. But it is Javier Luna
), a hotel waiter, who catches Katey's eye.
Javier introduces her to a style of sexy dancing unlike anything she has ever seen before. Intrigued, she suggests they team up to win a dance contest by combining the structure of ballroom dance with the sensuality of the local dance. Since Javier has been fired for consorting with a hotel guest -- namely, Katey -- he agrees, to the disgust of older brother Carlos (Rene Lavan), a car thief and committed Castro-ite.
Then Patrick Swayze
of the original "Dirty Dancing" turns up as a hotel dance instructor, who encourages Katey but takes no real role in developing her dance or choreography. Like so many of the movie's characters, he floats on the periphery of the story without contributing much to the complexity of the portrait of pre-Revolution Havana.
The Puerto Rican cities of San Juan
and Ponce make a convincing old Havana. The soundtrack neatly mixes Latin beats with the high energy rock of that era. The costumes, too, are eye-catching especially the colors and styles in steamy club scenes.
DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS
Lions Gate Films
Lions Gate Films and Miramax Films
Director: Guy Ferland
Screenwriters: Boaz Yakin
, Victoria Arch
Story by: Kate Gunzinger
, Peter Sagal
Producers: Lawrence Bender
, Sarah Green
Executive producers: Bob Osher
, Meryl Poster
, Jennifer Berman, Amir Malin, Rachel Cohen
Director of photography: Anthony Richmond
Production designer: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
Music: Heitor Pererira
Choreography: JoAnn Jansen
Costume designer: Isis Mussenden
Editors: Scott Richter
, Luis Colina
Juvier Suarez: Diego Luna
Katey Miller: Romola Garai
Jeannie Miller: Sela Ward
Bert Miller: John Slattery
James Phelps: Jonathan Jackson
Eve: January Jones
Susie Miller: Mika Boorem
Dance instructor: Patrick Swayze
Running time -- 86 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13