Wednesday, May 24, 2017

5 Reasons the Dirty Dancing Remake Isn’t Worth Your Time

(Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

In 1987, people all around the world fell in love with a guy named Johnny and a girl named Baby as they danced our way into our hearts (while steaming up the screen a little bit). "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" is an incredibly iconic song and scene thanks to this film, after all. And if you say the two words "the lift," everyone will know exactly what you mean. It's had numerous recreations — I am partial to the one in Crazy Stupid Love — and the love story between Johnny and Baby remains as beloved and recognizable as the dancing in the film. So when I received an email that ABC released the screener for their made-for-television remake of Dirty Dancing, I had to check it out — even if just out of morbid curiosity.

I kinda wish I hadn't.

There are a lot of reasons that movies shouldn't be remade. People are usually pretty sentimental and attached to a film they once saw, especially if it's a classic or a cult hit. Therefore, any attempt at a remake should stem from a place of love and respect for the source material. It's a fine line to walk: not recreating a film shot-for-shot, but also not straying so far away that it's unrecognizable from its predecessor. There are some good remakes out there (the new Beauty and the Beast was a faithful adaptation), and some bad ones (here's looking at you, Sound of Music: Live!). ABC's Dirty Dancing resembles, pretty similarly, the classic film from the 1980s in structure and plot — even in spite of some divergences. But it's a flat, uninteresting version. Plus, ABC's version attempts to add a meta twist to the story which will (if you're anything like me) induce rage in the viewers.

Let's break down the five reasons why this remake isn't worth your time. Beware: Spoilers abound for the twist that the 2017 version contains. (Yes. Spoilers.)

Image result for 2017 dirty dancing
(Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

1. ABIGAIL BRESLIN IS NOT BABY.


When I heard that Abigail Breslin would be playing Baby, I was very confused. I think Breslin is an incredibly talented actress when she's in the right roles (Little Miss Sunshine, My Sister's Keeper, and even the campy Scream Queens). But Baby is not that role for her. And that's because Baby is an incredibly complex character to pull off. She's supposed to be naive and a little bit standoffish when she meets Johnny. She is also meant to be stubborn and insecure. We watch her become more of a woman throughout the film because of her relationship with Johnny. She's in that age where she's trying to balance how to go from being a girl to a woman (Britney Spears even wrote a whole song about that weird phase of life).

Jennifer Grey's version of Baby is, likely, the only one most of us know — or at least the one we connect most deeply with. Breslin had an incredible set of shoes to fill, and the problem is that the version she portrayed didn't really connect with me. Rather than just being a bit green, Breslin's Baby is more bookish than her 1980s counterpart and is trying too hard to fall into her father's footsteps (it's... weird and kind of implied that Baby has deep daddy issues).

That would be fine, but this version of Baby doesn't feel like she has much to her apart from "has very little life experience." She's supposed to be an earnest character and a nice one, but she mostly just comes across as soft-spoken and skittish. Breslin plays her pretty even-keeled which is a disappointment because in spite of her lack of life experience, Grey's Baby was actually pretty fiesty and fiery. This Baby is just bland — flitting in and out of scenes. And that makes her transformation by the movie's end: a) not dramatic enough and b) not earned.

Again, Breslin is incredibly talented but this was not the role for her at all. She seems to spend most of the film unsure of how to play Baby, and the dialogue is incredibly stilted and forced. Nothing about Baby feels easy or natural or believable, and that's a shame considering she's the protagonist of the film.

(Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

2. THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS ARE MORE INTERESTING THAN THE MAIN ONES.


When the supporting characters get more story than the main characters, you know there's a problem. I actually found myself to be more invested in Penny (the incredibly talented Nicole Scherzinger, who is carrying this movie on her shoulders) and Marjorie (Debra Messing is quite good) and even Lisa (Sarah Hyland surprised me in this role) than the lives of Johnny and Baby. I talked above about Baby and my issues with her characterization, but Johnny also leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, try as he might, Colt Prattes' Johnny comes across more as a tortured Greaser than a sultry dance instructor. It's impossible to fill Swayze's shoes, but this version of Johnny feels a bit dull. His devotion to Penny is admirable and earnest, and his care for Baby is evident. But I don't quite buy into his story, or lack thereof, like I do in the original. Johnny's only real "story" is that he wants to eventually (maybe) be a choreographer.

But that's it.

Johnny and Baby's love story feels rather dull and dry, while the story that plays out between Marjorie and her husband is incredibly complex (and given a lot of screentime, actually). Even Lisa's story feels like it was more developed (with her initially dreaming of marriage, then having those dreams crushed when she saves herself from being assaulted by Robbie, then develops a sweet relationship with Marco) than the main characters'. I guess I just expected to be more impressed and engaged with the main love story than I actually was.

And speaking of story...

(Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

3. THE REMAKE ADDS NOTHING FRESH TO THE STORY.


The problem with remakes is that they're usually shouts into the void — they don't add anything new to the story (again, apart from the end of this movie that can be argued) and are made simply because it's been X amount of years since the original and it's due for an overhaul. Details within Dirty Dancing's story do actually shift around a little bit from the original. For example, the way that Johnny gets accused of theft is very different, and Robbie's character has a different story in the remake than the original. Details are altered but they're small enough that they don't really affect the overarching plot. Though honestly, Robbie's character in this remake seems less aggressive but no less irritating than the original.

Dirty Dancing's remake isn't really adding anything new to the canon with this one... apart from the fact that the characters break out into song. Sigh.

(Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

4. THE DANCING IS... OKAY?


The film is called Dirty Dancing for a reason, but I didn't really buy into the dancing (unless Nicole Scherzinger because she's fantastic), and wasn't blown away by it in the slightest. The group dance scenes were pretty decent — though nothing incredibly spectacular. And as I mentioned above, the infamous lift was incredibly anticlimactic. Unfortunately, I don't really know that Abigail Breslin is the right choice for the role of a dancerf you choose to watch the film, I assume you will feel the same way.

That's it, kids. That's all I have to comment on.

(Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

5. THE STORY SHIFTS AT THE END.


Be warned now, I'm about to spoil the end of Dirty Dancing for you.

"But Jenn," you'll say, "this story has been around for over 20 years. There's no way you can SPOIL it." And you, dear reader, would be right. ... If this version hadn't taken some creative liberties with Johnny and Baby's story. For starters, the film begins with an older version of Baby attending the musical, Dirty Dancing. (Gee whiz, how meta of them.) The entire film is told in flashback, as Baby reminisces on that summer that led to the creation of the aforementioned musical.

After the now-famous "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" dance scene at the end, there is more to the story. Gasp, right? As if we forgot — and I actually did — the movie doesn't end there. Instead, we return to a present-day Baby sitting in an empty theatre. Everyone has left the musical, and she's sitting there still smiling at the screen. As she goes to leave, who should she run into but Johnny, now older and a successful choreographer. Of course, he's the one who choreographed the show. While she's talking to Johnny, a young girl runs up to Baby.

It's Baby's daughter.

Johnny and the audience are taken aback, but we have no time to react because there's more! A man walks up to the group and introduces himself to Johnny. It's Baby's husband. Baby confesses that she really doesn't keep up with dancing anymore apart from taking a salsa class at her local JCC (is Baby actually Jewish? Is her new husband?). Johnny and Baby part ways, but affirm that they'll always remember the one summer they had together.

AND THAT IS HOW THE STORY ENDS.

I wanted to throw something at my screener, because somehow this reboot couldn't stick to the original ending and broke up an incredibly iconic couple for the sake of... what? A plot twist? A "realistic" ending? I'm all for realism in fiction, but this remake took it too far. Instead of focusing on the love story between Johnny and Baby and ensuring that it was presented in the best way it could be, this movie decided to throw a wrench in all of that and end with the two separated. When I chastised the film above for not adding anything fresh to the story, this was not what I meant. "Fresh" should be developing characters further or adding new voices to the film. It shouldn't be to rewrite history.

That's like if a Grease remake would end with Sandy choosing to remain the "good girl." Or a Sound of Music remake ending with the entire family getting trapped in the convent. Or a Footloose remake that ended with no dancing.

I'm a romantic, but am okay with movies ending without a main couple getting together — as long as it makes sense for the story. But with Dirty Dancing, the only reason that this 2017 prologue and coda exist are because the creators CAN, not because they SHOULD.

Sorry (not sorry), Dirty Dancing, but you are not worth anyone's time.

1 comment:

  1. Haven't seen it, don't want to, but the ending sounds like they're trying to emulate La La Land.

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