'Dirty Dancing' - Spending the summer in a holiday camp with her family, Frances ('Baby') falls in love with the camp's dancing teacher.
'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights' - In November 1958, the American teenager Katey Miller moves with her parents and her younger sister to Havana. Her father is an executive of Ford expatriated to Cuba, and Katey is an excellent high school senior student that misses her friends. The family is lodged in a fancy hotel, where Katey accidentally meets the local teenage waiter Javier Suarez. Later she sees Javier dancing in a public square and they become friends, but he is fired from the hotel because her acquaintances have seen them together. Katey invites Javier to participate of a Latin Ballroom Contest in the local Palace club to help him to raise some money, and she secretly meets him in the La Rosa Negra nightclub for rehearsals. Later they fall in love for each other in times of revolution..
In the world of home video commerce, no one forgets an anniversary. For classic or blockbuster films, each notable milestone is observed not with champagne and cake, but rather with a repackaged, often recycled edition of the movie that bilks consumers out of hard-earned money and pads the coffers of greedy studios. Any celebratory toasting is done by self-satisfied executives saluting their shameless exploitation of a beloved title.
The first Blu-ray release of 'Dirty Dancing' conveniently coincided with the film's 20th anniversary in 2007, but that version featured fair-to-middling video and audio that frustrated fans and critics alike. To be fair, the next release - three years later - didn't have an anniversary tie-in, but Lionsgate upgraded the subpar transfers, gussied up the packaging, and enhanced the extras to make a "limited keepsake edition." That should have been it for 'Dirty Dancing,' but why pass up another opportunity to make a buck? Before any dust could accumulate on that 2010 box set, we're now supposedly honoring the movie's 25th anniversary with yet another reissue of this fan favorite.
Same movie. Same transfers as the last edition. Same extras. So what's the hook this time around? Well, it seems some delusional suit at Lionsgate is under the woefully misguided impression there are actually people out there clamoring for a Blu-ray release of 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,' the universally lambasted 2004 follow-up to the Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey classic. The executive, however, must have been smart enough to realize 'Havana Nights' would only sell about a dozen copies if released on its own, so why not package it with the original 'Dirty Dancing' to entice that film's faithful to triple-dip?
Now we know we don't need another release of 'Dirty Dancing' - nor do we need another review of it (if you'd like to read what we think of the film, click here for our take on the Limited Keepsake Edition). But honestly, do we really need a release of 'Havana Nights' at all? Guy Ferland's film consistently winds up on any number of "worst sequels" lists even though it's not really a sequel at all. The plot transpires a good six or seven years before Baby and company descended on Kellerman's resort, features a different family, and is set in a Cuba on the cusp of a Communist revolution led by the country's future dictator, Fidel Castro. The more exotic backdrop and encroaching political upheaval, however, only marginally pump up the limp storyline, which is basically a 'Dirty Dancing' redo, despite the fact that it's supposedly based on a true story. Though Hollywood makes plenty of purposeless films, the reasoning behind producing 'Havana Nights' is particularly puzzling.
Once again we have a coming-of-age story, courtesy of bumping and grinding - though this time it's to a tango and salsa soundtrack. There's also the requisite rich girl (Romola Garai) on the brink of womanhood, this time with a less obnoxious (and less interesting) sister (Mika Boorem) and an attractive, over-protective (and less interesting) set of parents (Sela Ward and John Slattery) who falls for a wrong-side-of-the-tracks (and less interesting) hotel employee (Diego Luna), who's a Cuban national and - surprise! - a dancer. Plenty of clandestine rendezvous follow, along with a hefty dose of familial strife, sexual awakening, and an ultimate reconciliation and begrudging acceptance.
And then, of course, there's the bizarre cameo by Patrick Swayze. He doesn't play Johnny Castle per se; how could he? The movie takes place several years before the original yet was filmed a decade and a half afterward. But he is a (nameless) dance instructor who takes the green Garai under his wing and teaches her some nifty Latin moves. Fans of 'Dirty Dancing' may welcome his appearance, but I found it gimmicky, trite, and a little creepy.
The dance sequences are fine, but lack the raw power and sensual heat of those in the first film. (In other words, they aren't very "dirty.") Adequate acting makes the movie watchable, but a thin, copycat script drains the story of any energy. Attempts are made to address such potent issues as prejudice, snobbery, and political upheaval, but they're mechanical and insincere.
And that's the basic deficiency of the entire film. 'Havana Nights' just goes through the motions. It lacks heart and any sense of real purpose. Feelings of nostalgia and discovery, along with generous helpings of humor and vitality pervade the original 'Dirty Dancing.' Its follow-up tries to recreate the magic, but falls far short, ending up a pale carbon copy that's flat and forgettable.
Bottom line...'Dirty Dancing' - 4 stars 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights' - 2 stars
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Dirty Dancing Collection' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case slipped inside a sleeve. Inside are two Blu-ray discs, both of which feature 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video transfers and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio tracks. An assortment of previews and promos precede each film's full-motion main menu.
Because the 'Dirty Dancing' disc is exactly the same as the one released in the Limited Keepsake Edition, click here to access a review of that video transfer. Though one might surmise the much more recent 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights' would kick its namesake's tush in the PQ department, the 2004 follow-up isn't really much better. 'Havana Nights' possesses a little more polish and sheen, but the increase in vibrancy won't bowl anyone over. Colors are nicely saturated and contrast is properly pitched, but the picture lacks the pop a splashy period dance movie requires to rivet attention.
Light grain lends the image welcome texture, and black levels are rich and deep. Clarity is fine, although a few scenes sport a slightly softer look than others, and the pristine source material exhibits no signs of wear or damage. Background elements are easy to discern, shadow delineation is quite good, close-ups render facial details well, and fleshtones remain stable and true throughout. Any digital doctoring escapes notice, and no banding or noise disrupts the smooth presentation.
All in all, this is a very watchable transfer, but lacks the pizzazz that punches up this genre of film.
For an audio review of 'Dirty Dancing,' click here. Like its counterpart, 'Havana Nights' features a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that's not as active or nuanced as I anticipated. Sure, the sound is crisp and clear, with a pleasing dynamic scale that handles all the highs and lows with ease, but surround activity is surprisingly limited and subtleties come at a premium. Stereo separation up front is more pronounced, widening the sound field and offering some directional interest, but 'Havana Nights' sounds a little anemic at times.
Dialogue is always easy to understand, and the music sequences benefit from solid fidelity and tonal depth. The songs fill the room with decent power and supply a healthy surround presence the dramatic scenes lack. Though there's nothing really wrong with the 'Havana Nights' track, like the video, it never delivers that potent dose of pow that would really immerse the listener in the action.
The supplemental package for 'Dirty Dancing' is identical to the one included in the Limited Keepsake Edition, with the exception of the hardcover book. For a review of those substantial extras, click here. The special features on 'Havana Nights' aren't nearly as hefty (nor should they be given the subpar nature of the movie), but there are enough on hand to satisfy the film's fans...if there are any.
Do we really need another 'Dirty Dancing' release? No! Do we really need it's lame and anemic follow-up, 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,' on Blu-ray at all? No! Should you double (or triple) dip if you already own the 2010 edition of the Swayze-Grey classic? No! (Unless, of course, you want to trash the cumbersome "keepsake" packaging and go with a more streamlined shelf presentation.) This is the exact same 'Dirty Dancing' disc that's been circulating for a couple of years, so unless you've worn out your existing one, never seen or owned the original or count yourself as one of the few admirers of its sister film, then by all means steer clear of this shameless redo.