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Review: ABC's 'Dirty Dancing' remake should be left in a corner

It seems as if nothing is sacred anymore.

ABC's remake of the 1987 romantic drama Dirty Dancing is, well...not good. If it were a Taco Bell sauce packet or a chicken wing flavor, it would be mild.

Nobody wants to watch a movie called Mild Dancing.

Full disclosure: I'm biased toward the original starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. I was not yet born when it premiered (sorry, everyone) but it's one of my mother's favorite movies. She has superb taste in both movies and music.

So when I heard ABC was premiering a Dirty Dancing remake as a TV movie, I physically cringed. Was anyone asking for this?

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Like the original, the remake revolves around Frances "Baby" Houseman (Scream Queen's Abigail Breslin), an 18-year-old woman who spends the summer of 1963 at an upscale resort with her family. She's the younger of two daughters with a doctor for a dad (Bruce Greenwood), a mom (Debra Messing) wanting more from her husband and a sister (Sarah Hyland) more interested in makeup and marriage than a career.

Baby is about to head off to college, and has no other plans for her summer than to read books. She says numerous times "I like books" yet we don't actually see her reading until the last 20 minutes.

Baby's summer is shaken up when she meets the handsome dance teacher, Johnny Castle (Colt Prattes). He teaches her to dance. She teaches him to love and be loved. It's essentially the same story as the original, though without passion, eye-popping dance numbers and an actual purpose.

While the original focused on coming-of-age rebellion and shaking up the rich, elitist establishment, the remake tries to get at those overarching concepts but gets muddled at the very start.

ABC's remake is like a compilation of Dirty Dancing's greatest hits turned into the Walt Disney World ride versions of themselves. The dancers lip sync along to Do You Love Me and (I've Had) The Time of My Life, turning the TV movie into a clunky quasi-musical. When they don't try to sing along, the other classic songs are remixed for a "modern" audience despite the film still being set in 1963.

One does not simply remix Hungry Eyes.

Then there's the opening and closing scenes of the TV film, adding that extra half hour or so to push it over two hours. In the beginning it's 1975 and Baby is settling into her seat for a performance of Dirty Dancing: The Musical. Huh?

And the end, Baby is the last one left in the theater, tears for happier times streaming down her face. In walks Johnny, who starred in the play. Oh, and the musical is based on Baby's book. Why?

The bright spots are the actors, though they each come with a set of flaws mostly related to lack of chemistry.

Breslin is an awkward pick for Baby. Sure, I'm happy the creators didn't pick a super skinny starlet, but Breslin's Baby is all talk and not enough action showcasing her personality.

Prattes is a gorgeous human and an epicable dancer, but he lacks Swayze's swagger. There's also an electric spark missing between him and Baby.

The remake could have been a pumped up version of the original, paying homage while still setting itself apart with complex characters and a more modernized storyline. It should have been a way to celebrate the original's artistry, sensual chemistry and iconic soundtrack.

But like the scientists in Jurassic Park, the creators of this were so occupied with whether or not they could remake Dirty Dancing, they didn't stop to think if they should.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.


Dirty Dancing premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

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[Last modified: Friday, May 19, 2017 10:45am]


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