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Dirty Dancing TV Review – The Accidental Parody Genre Crowns Its King

The subgenre of sad, meaningless remakes has rarely managed to undertake a challenge less hopeful and less sought after than ABC‘s Dirty Dancing. Not only is the original a classic that is better left alone, it is from a class of “perfect storm” movies that only the truly clueless would dare touch again. That means that the best we might have hoped for is a passable bit of entertainment. Would that these were the best of times.

Though the film puts forward the idea that this incarnation will further explore the characters we are familiar with, it is practically a reshoot, as opposed to something you would want to legitimately label a remake. Scenes are not simply reminiscent of the original, they are superimpositions. Worse still, where the movie does diverge slightly (if memory serves), things only manage to become more comic.

It is, if nothing else, a movie that lets you know where it’s going right from the start. It opens with a “present” that it can flashback from, which puts forward a ludicrous theory, and dives straight into an introductory ride in the car toward our summer vacation that is a scene straight out of film school nightmares. A less believable offering of characters may never have been filmed. That would actually render it a perfect effort if the movie had simply intended to become the campy parody it turned out to be. With a couple more days on set and another week in editing this could have been one of Mel Brooks’ best films.

It’s all downhill from there, and the result suggests an effort by those who despise the original and set out to make their case by sucking all the charm and quirk out of it, leaving on display the wooden characters and stilted, insulting plot.

Abigail Breslin is Baby this time around, and the only positive note in play. She tries like hell, manages some moments that make you long for the original and ultimately shows off the potential for charisma that is never allowed to actually manifest here. You know she could have taken the role and done something with it, but you only know that because you catch will-o-wisp glances out of the corner of your eye. Shackled into this monstrosity, the best her effort manages to provoke is a certain sadness.

courtesy ABC

She’s sparring this time against Colt Prattes, our new Johnny, and rarely has any role been more miscast. His appearance here is the equivalent of casting Ed Helms in the remake of For a Few Dollars More, and he is in constant danger of being out-machoed by Breslin. His inefficacy in the role, and utter lack of charisma might be the death knell for an actor, but judging from the “Stepford Wives meets Scooby Doo meets 60s ad page come to life” acting surrounding him, I have to suspect he’s following directions to the letter. Indeed, he may well be giving you some of the best acting you’ve seen in years. Either way, he isn’t in a different space than anyone but Breslin.

The rest of the cast are off-putting at best and often curiously distracting. Debra Messing is almost as good as she is in The Mysteries of Laura, which is to say that you hope she’s trying to be silly, while Katey Sagal and Bruce Greenwood are the worst you’ve ever seen them, which is confusing. Had Messing and Sagal switched roles we might have at least gotten the occasional respite from the horror during their scenes together. As it is, there are a few key moments when Greenwood and Breslin are on the putting green, or are being seriously vexed at each other, when the audience is jolted out of the idea that they’ve stumbled into a middle school play.

The movie leaves you nothing to latch onto and seemingly dares you to continue. Should you become determined to see things through, it throws in one of its “updates,” like the overlong dance scene with Sagal and Prattes, which just has to make anyone squirm. Johnny’s “sidejob” is uncomfortable enough in the original, but with a laughable lead being tossed about by a pulp-fiction minx, you have to hope you can laugh it, because otherwise you might need a shower.

It’s hard to tell what made this seem like a good idea, especially as a TV release which doesn’t even have the true benefit of being a money grab, but it is a new classic, and one which is bound to be watched repeatedly, because it’s absolutely hilarious.

 

Summary
Dirty Dancing is difficult to watch, but as an attempt at destroying an original, it is oddly powerful.
1.5
Horrendous
Written by
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.
  • Ann

    It is definitely crappy compared to the original! This recast is terrible and no one will ever come law to Patrick or Jennifer in my book! This movie is awful and I for one will never ever watch this version again! Got to watch the “real” one to remove the images of this one from my brain!!

    • Sophia

      I completely agree…

  • Beverly

    OMG! Who cast this movie?? Abigail Breslin, chubby, little girl playing the part of Baby. Can’t wait to laugh through her dancing sexy with Johnny – and what’s with him (Colt Prattes)? He looks like some angry kid from Grease. Yuck! The nostalgia of the music from the early sixties is a good part of what we enjoyed the first time. The dancing is odd, the costumes are WRONG, to say the least. Gosh when are they going to start realizing that if the first movie was great, why spoil the memory of it by making a bomb!

  • Lori R

    OMG no this can not be happening! So badly cast I can’t watch! Johnnys hair and those eyebrows!! Where’s Ellie Fanning when we need her! I really like Abigail Breslin but she’s not right for this part. This is a movie that shouldn’t be remade for TV or any ventue!

  • Mike S

    I just watched it and I have a few things to say. When I saw the names that would be in this I thought maybe it would be ok but I was wrong. The dancing… wow it is bad. Abigail Breslin while maybe a good actress is not a very good dancer.
    The entire last dance scene she literally does nothing except move her hands and spin. In the original when Baby danced it was sexy, this is not even close to that . Breslin is a lot thicker than Grey was and wears a large dress that kind of makes her look like a block.
    When Johnny comes in and says “nobody puts baby in a corner” it is cringe-worth… Then at the end of the dance when she runs up and jumps up for him to hold her…. the way the mom jumped up and opened her mouth like “OMG” was also laughable.
    Oh yah, the entire last song “I Had The Time Of My Life” was turned into a musical where the actors are singing. It didn’t have that same punch.
    The iconic scenes from the movie …. you’ll laugh at almost every one. The parts where he teaches her to dance ….. it really comes down to she is not a good dancer at all.
    The sister in the movie (Sarah Hyland) I think maybe she should have been the lead. She looks like she would be a better dancer….
    The chemistry between Baby and Johnny just isn’t there. There is no sexual tension at all…I think while Breslin is a pretty girl she just isn’t “sexy”
    The other stories with Hyland and her mom (Debra Messing) they weren’t necessary….

    Oh and last. Wow did this thing have a LOT of commercial. More than anything I have watched in a long time.

  • Sophia

    This movie was horrible.. I agree with everyone.. I will need to watch the original to get this one out of my mind….I definitely will not be watching this version ever again.. It was greatly disappointing.. As much as I wanted to stop watching It I needed to continue to watch how bad it was.. The different story lines they added were horrible.. This is not a musical movie ; why make it into one.. 😒

  • yoyo

    Abigail Breslin looks a little overweight for the role and she’s a terrible dancer. Colt Prattes doesn’t look sexy for the role, his hair and eyebrows are perfect for a horror vampire movie. I just forwarded the entire movie to check the final scene and oh surprise it’s terrible. What a waste of time and money for this production.

  • Ron Miller

    This review was as scathing as throwing sulfuric acid on the movie . . . which, come to think of it, is a brilliant idea.
    May it never, ever, be broadcast again.
    May we all be granted the grace to thoroughly repress the hideous memory of seeing it.

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