Film Reviews: Thursday, February 25, 2004
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Bailamos

Put this baby in a corner! The Dirty Dancing sequel is stale queso.

By Kristian Lin

The original Dirty Dancing came out in 1987, and that charming piece of kitsch still inspires a great deal of affection. For moviegoers with no interest in seeing a crucifixion this weekend, the Latin-flavored sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, arrives in theaters 17 years after its predecessor. It needed at least 18.

The makers of this Hollywood film looked outside the United States for their two lead actors, and they achieve 50 percent success. Romola Garai (an English actress whose last name is pronounced “Gary”) plays Katie, an American girl who moves to Havana in 1958 because of her dad’s job as a diplomat. What an unwelcome change this is from the soft, luminescent, sensitive actress who was so quietly affecting when she starred in last year’s I Capture the Castle. Here she’s distant, wooden, uninteresting, with her hair dyed an unflattering shade of blonde. She concentrates so hard on putting on an American accent that she has no energy left to do anything else, and her role’s nearly nonexistent characterization leaves her stranded.

The movie does much better by its male lead, the Mexican actor Diego Luna. He plays Javier, a hotel waiter who serves drinks to Katie and her social circle of country-club Yanks. Similar to the original film, the girl sees the guy dancing with a bunch of his friends and is enchanted by him. Later he takes her to a club where the dancing gets really, um, dirty. (The club here is supposed to represent “the real Havana,” but it looks like a Ricky Martin video, circa 1999.) Luna, the boyish, slightly built star of Y Tu Mamá También, shows both sprightly enthusiasm and a silky smoothness, and his gusto in this role goes well beyond the call of duty. If you find yourself actually watching this movie, you’ll probably get through it by focusing on him.

The focus should be on the dance numbers, but the ones here are disappointing. Director Guy Ferland edits the sequences so amateurishly that he fractures Joann Jensen’s choreography beyond comprehensibility. (Contrast this with another current dance-oriented movie, You Got Served, which is no masterpiece but at least is filmed fluidly enough to let us appreciate the dancing.) Garai and Luna handle the steps competently, though neither holds a candle to Patrick Swayze, who shows them up by appearing in a cameo and moving with superior grace and athleticism. Perhaps the worst blunder of all, the movie climaxes not with a dance number but with Fidel Castro’s coup. The revolution is supposed to give the picture gravity, but instead it only adds to the silliness. If Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights had any of the original’s goofy innocence (or its dance moves), silliness would be easy to overlook. Sadly, it just keeps stumbling across the floor.


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