“Dirty Dancing” is a classic and the 30th anniversary edition reminds us why.
“Dirty Dancing” is a timeless classic. When Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) embarks on a family vacation, she finds herself in awe of a local dance instructor named Johnny Lawrence (Patrick Swayze). Things escalate as she reluctantly becomes Johnny’s dance partner and romance ensues. The 30th anniversary edition of the film brings about nostalgia and supplemental value from interviews with cast members and never before seen extras.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 4
On the surface “Dirty Dancing” is a movie that is just accepted. Like many iconic films it’s one we know but often forget why to appreciate. There are so many layers that together form the right concoction for solid filmmaking. Yet because of it being a staple in essential watch lists, many of its accolades go unnoticed.
Johnny and Baby have a modern day Shakespearean romance between them. From different sides of the fence, their Montague/Capulet type love absorbs the strengths from the classic “Romeo & Juliet” for more modern times. While it does not encompass the Shakespearean classification of “tragedy or comedy,” the feel good resolve is a satisfying, jovial experience. The chemistry between Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze is what sells this love story and its visually supplemented by their well choreographed dance routines. The title of the film itself is an entendre that signifies their forbidden love and how more conservative characters view this style of dancing as risque. Some of these dance routines are heavily sexualized but as the film progresses they evolve much like a real life relationship. Early on the routines establish the initial sexual attraction between Baby and Johnny. When the film reaches the final routine, the message of love is clearly conveyed through a routine uniquely their own with elements of passion throughout.
I will admit that the acting at times is a bit over the top. But while the dialogue between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey can be a little intense, it fits well with the period. Johnny is an embodiment of James Dean with his rebellious nature yet empathetic spirit. It’s a formulaic character that is a proven success but I think it’s safe to say that Patrick Swayze became that generation’s “rebel.” Baby also falls into a stereotype playing the girl next door in a coming of age story. With an older sister that is vapid yet physically appealing, a proverbial shadow is cast over Baby. As we peel back the layers of Baby, she eventually breaks out of her shell showcasing her own sex appeal in addition to intellectual substance.
The foundation of this film is character development supplemented by plot, score, and choreography. It’s a medley that is cohesive and harmonious in conveying the film’s theme. The secluded setting allows focus to be put on specific characters rather than being distracted by insignificant details. The cinematography works well to establish the emotions the audience should be feeling. The angles are perfectly set and timed to convey emotional distance, anger, or bring the focus to choreography.
Overall this story lacks some complexity and the dialogue can sometimes be misplaced, but the foundation is built upon chemistry and character development which is solid.
Entertainment Value – 4.5
Many of the elements of “Dirty Dancing” are relatable to most and the exploration beyond everyday life broadens into an attainable fantasy. On some level many of us can identify with one of the characters. Whether it be Johnny’s tough exterior, Baby’s insecurities, or even the protective nature of her father, there is a level of familiarity established. While the characters are adults, there is a bit of childhood nostalgia established from the “family vacation” aspect. I think most have had that one summer love story that they’ve hoped would blossom into something greater. Johnny and Baby’s relationship is a shell to which many of us can fit ourselves into. The way so many are able to identify with these characters creates a consistent level of engagement.
In addition to being invested in these characters, there are so many fun elements to enjoy. This falls into the realm of musical but it’s not overpowering for those that have a distaste for the genre. The accompanied dances are energetic and unique giving “Dirty Dancing” originality. Whether you are a dance aficionado or not, the routines are vibrant and fun for all. Nothing feels forced and everything happens organically. Accompanying that fun is also a bit of drama and suspense which fills in the gaps in between dance numbers. Resolve is found through character engagement but culminates in the end with a brilliantly choreographed final scene showcasing the entire experience.
Re-Watchability – 4.5
As previously mentioned, this is a staple film. Despite following a formulaic plot, the moments can be relived over and over. This is a fun-filled package of enjoyment a film that I will surely revisit in the future.
Blu Ray Extras
It's difficult not to find enjoyment in this classic film. "Dirty Dancing" still holds its relevance to date with its unique medley of dance blended with love story. Reliving the tale in the 30th anniversary edition of the film is a reminder of why it's a staple for must see movies.