The timeless classic now available in a special 30th Anniversary edition featuring never-before-seen interview footage and new featurettes. In the summer of 1963, innocent 17-year-old Baby (Jennifer Grey) vacations with her parents at a Catskills resort. One evening, she is drawn to the staff quarters by stirring music, and there she meets Johnny (Patrick Swayze), the hotel dance instructor, who is as experienced as Baby is naive. She soon becomes Johnny's pupil in dance and love.
Over the past decade, 'Dirty Dancing' has been released a whopping FOUR TIMES on Blu-ray. The premier edition coincided with the film's 20th anniversary in 2007. The transfer was subpar, so fans clamored for a redo. Lionsgate complied three years later with a Limited Keepsake Edition that included color scene stills and a 48-page commemorative hardback book. Two years after that, the studio needed a crutch to support its release of 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights' (which no one would have bought on its own), so the 'Dirty Dancing Collection' - which featured the original and its inferior companion film - was born.
That should have been enough, right? I mean, 'Dirty Dancing' doesn't reside on the same cinematic plane as 'Gone With the Wind,' 'The Wizard of Oz,' and 'Casablanca,' for crying out loud! Those classics deserve periodic re-releases. Hey, don't get me wrong: 'Dirty Dancing' is a fine film and I enjoy it very much every time I see it. I love it when Patrick Swayze says, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." And I still crank up the volume whenever they play '(I've Had) The Time of My Life' or 'Hungry Eyes' on the Sirius/XM '80s station. But as long as all three previous Blu-ray editions are still readily available, why continually recycle the film?
Well, here we are in 2017, and it's time to milk the 'Dirty Dancing' cash cow once again. This new release celebrates the movie's 30th anniversary and the special features shamelessly hype a 2017 TV movie remake and updated stage show. (Ah, maybe that's the M.O. behind this edition!) Yes, it comes packaged in a slipcase and includes both a digital copy and DVD, and there are even a few new extras (see below). But there's no new transfer and a bunch of supplements from the previous editions have been dropped (not a smart move). So unless you've been living on another planet for the past three decades and are brand new to 'Dirty Dancing,' I can't imagine why anyone would run out and buy this release. I've heard of double-dipping and triple-dipping, but quadruple-dipping? Really? Maybe it's time to leave well enough alone.
Anyway, for old time's sake, here's what former HDD critic Peter Bracke wrote about 'Dirty Dancing' a decade ago...
One of a handful of crowd pleasing flicks that are seemingly impervious to criticism, 'Dirty Dancing' may well go down in film history as the little movie that could. Somehow this unassuming little story about a young girl's coming-of-age in the Catskills managed to not only become the sleeper smash of 1987, but also give birth to a veritable cottage industry -- two soundtrack albums, a live touring production, an eventual TV spin-off series, and even annual 'Dirty Dancing' fan conventions. And while those just stumbling upon the film today without being wrapped up in the warm glow of nostalgia may end up wondering what all the fuss was about, taken on its own terms, 'Dirty Dancing' is still an immensely likable (if terribly clichéd) tale of first love.
Jennifer Grey won the breakout role of a lifetime as Frances "Baby" Houseman, a young ingenue vacationing with her dear papa Dr. Jake Houseman (Jerry Orbach) and family at the upper-class Kellerman's Lodge in New York's Catskill Mountains. On the verge of her 18th birthday, Baby is still idealistic, flush with longings of romantic love, but frustrated by her family's continued attempts to fix her up with all manner of shallow, snooty rich boys. Those feelings come to a head after she stumbles upon on a late-night "dirty dancing" session held in secret by the lodge's staff, and first spies lead dancer Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze). Faster than you can hum "She's Like the Wind," Baby falls head over heels for the "rebellious" foot man -- much to the dismay of dear old dad.
No more plot synopsis is required, because (even if we haven't already seen the film a million times) we know where this story is going the minute Baby meets Johnny. In this case, however, familiarity only seems to breed endearment. In fact, what's sweet about 'Dirty Dancing' is that it never aspires to be more than its simple story, yet insists on telling its tale well. Even 20 (or 30) years later, the film still feels fresh because it was made with a knowing lack of cynicism, treating Baby's innocence sincerely. We truly like all of these characters, and 'Dirty Dancing' facilitates an instant empathy with the audience. The film also argues against classism, asking us to root for Baby and Johnny over the objections of the stern Houseman clan and Kellerman's snooty patrons. In that sense, 'Dirty Dancing' could even be called subversive, in that it brought a bit of racy taboo-busting to the consumerist, Reagan-era '80s.
Yet the reason 'Dirty Dancing' really works is because of Grey and Swayze. Okay, so their hair is really bad and the endless music video montages the film sticks them in are glorious camp. But Grey, despite her self-conscious line readings (it always seems like she is looking just slightly off-camera at cue cards), has such a fresh, appealing personality that she radiates bubbly charm. And Swayze admirably does not condescend or trivialize Johnny, who in other hands might have been just another poor man's James Dean. Swayze really makes us buy Johnny's predicament, and as a result we understand why Baby has fallen so hard for her savior in a leather jacket. It's a tougher, smarter performance than Swayze's ever been given credit for.
And then of course there's the film's climax -- set to the ingratiating number one hit "(I've Had the) Time of My Life" -- when our heroic young lovers finally stand up to the repressive values of Baby's family, and unite all of Kellerman's in a huge explosion of dirty dancing. By the time Johnny utters his immortal line "Nobody puts baby in a corner!", it's impossible not to bust into a huge, Cheshire cat of a grin. 'Dirty Dancing' may be cinematic junk food, but it earns every calorie. Guilty pleasures don't come any sweeter than this.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Edition' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case inside a sleeve. A leaflet containg the code to access the Digital HD Ultraviolet copy is tucked inside the front cover, and both a Blu-ray disc and standard-def DVD are included in the package. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the full-motion menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.
Many 'Dirty Dancing' fans were hoping an upgraded transfer would distinguish this 30th anniversary release, but alas, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 rendering included here is the exact same one used in the 2010 'Limited Keepsake Edition' and 2012 'Collection.' Here's what I said about what was then an upgraded transfer back in 2010:
The previous Blu-ray edition of 'Dirty Dancing' may not have been afflicted with a dirty transfer, but the effort left a lot to be desired and disappointed the film's legion of fans. So when Lionsgate announced the Limited Keepsake Edition would feature a newly remastered print, expectations ran high that previous errors would be corrected and this would be the definitive version of a beloved movie. And to my eyes, it is. But before anyone gets too excited, I must emphasize that 'Dirty Dancing' was never the belle of the ball visually, so terms like "eye-popping," "brilliant," and "dazzling" won't be finding their way into this review. Emile Ardolino's film has always looked rather flat, dull, and hazy, with muted color and contrast, and it still looks like that here. The image, however, is completely free of dirt and scratches, and clarity is about as good as one can imagine. Lines are crisp, but never appear artificially enhanced (as they did in the previous Blu-ray version), and the picture exudes a cozy warmth that nicely reflects the coming-of-age story. Grain is still a bit thick, but fits in well with the period flavor, and black levels are solid and deep. Exteriors possess a bit more pop than interiors, and the lush greens of the Kellerman resort fare the best of any hues in the film. Fleshtones look natural, and no banding or digital noise disrupt the picture.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track included here is the exact same one that graced both the 'Dirty Dancing Limited Keepsake Edition' and 'Dirty Dancing Collection' discs. Here's what I said about it back in 2010:
Lionsgate switches up the audio, replacing the old 6.1 PCM track with a spanking new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. The sound is still clean and well-modulated, with no distortion creeping into the high end and not much subwoofer activity rounding out the low, but there's not a huge bump up in quality, and that's largely due to the film itself. 'Dirty Dancing' has never been a powerhouse in the audio department, with limited surround presence and so-so fidelity, and the DTS upgrade can't disguise those inherent deficiencies. Still, dialogue is well prioritized and always easy to understand, and there's some decent stereo separation across the front channels that helps widen the sound field somewhat. The soundtrack tunes possess good tonal depth and brightness, but lack the hoped for wow factor until the climactic number. '(I've Had) The Time of My Life' at last blows the lid off the track, bursting across all the speakers with terrific clarity, distinct accents, and pulsating bass tones that really ramp up the exuberant final dance sequence. Why the other songs sound slightly anemic by comparison remains a mystery. All in all, though, there's nothing wrong with this lossless track; it just doesn't consistently rock the room like it should.
Here's where things really differ. Though this 30th anniversary edition adds four new extras and ports over many special features from the two previous releases, it summarily deletes a bunch of supplements that many fans may cherish. What's been dumped? The pop-up trivia track is gone, as well as the multi-angle dance sequences, tributes to deceased cast and crew members (including Swayze and Jerry Orbach), the Kellerman's featurette, a vintage featurette from 1987, a reproduction of Eleanor Bergstein's script, the 82-minute 'Dirty Dancing Live in Concert' program, the 'Dancing to the Music' featurette, a Patrick Swayze featurette, the 'For the Fans' section, the photo gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. That's a lot of material to cut out, so those of you that own a previous Blu-ray edition may want to hang onto it. What remains and what's new is described below.
Do we really need a FOURTH Blu-ray release of 'Dirty Dancing'? Of course not. And we especially don't need one that doesn't feature a new video transfer and shaves off multitudes of extras that were a staple of previous editions. Yes, it's the movie's 30th anniversary; yes, Lionsgate includes a few new supplements to entice fans; and yes, this is a good vehicle to hype the upcoming 2017 TV remake and new stage show, but enough already! If you're a 'Dirty Dancing' fanatic and have to have those four new supplements (which really aren't that great), then by all means, feel free to quadruple dip. (Just don't toss or sell your previous Blu-ray copies, because you'll definitely want to keep the previous extras.) But if you own either the 2010 Limited Keepsake Edition or 2012 'Dirty Dancing Collection,' sit tight and save your money. Both of those editions contain the same video and audio transfers as this new 30th anniversary edition and far more special features. On the other hand, if you've never purchased 'Dirty Dancing' before, this edition more than suffices. It's attractively priced, handsomely packaged, and does include a digital copy. And the extras are comprehensive enough to satisfy almost anyone.
Bottom line: This is a solid set for first-timers, but only extreme 'Dirty Dancing' fans should even consider purchasing this largely recycled disc.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.