I heard Dirty Dancing before I saw it. It was during a sleepover at my friend Ashley’s house, where we crept behind a sofa with a tape recorder while her parents watched the 1987 Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey hit on a VHS tape. Despite having exposed two fourth graders to nipple and Kama Sutra jokes by taking us to a screening of Scrooged earlier in the evening, Ashley’s father had decreed that this movie was inappropriate. And so we hid, recorded the dialogue, and stayed up listening to the muffled playback in her bedroom.
If you can fall for a dance movie without seeing any of the actual moves, you know it’s true love. Eventually I got to see the real thing, and I idolized not only the movie, but the teen babysitter who showed up to our house in Baby’s knee-length denim shorts. I loved the clothes. I loved the routines. I loved the Swayze.
I especially loved the songs, so I was beside myself with excitement when my junior high choir teacher decided to give us a break from all the Amy Grant medleys, and pulled out the sheet music for tunes from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. There was just one problem. Some parents had complained that the lyrics to Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes” were too sexually mature — reader, I genuinely thought the song was about food — and thus our recital saw us swaying in blue polyester skirts to the less primal “Loving Eyes.”
And now, after three decades of devoted fandom, ABC just expects me to throw it all away? To pretend that Abigail Breslin and [consults Google] someone named Colt Prattes are Baby and Johnny? To accept a Lisa who, as far as I can tell, does not flap her arms excitedly while wearing a bikini top and sarong? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING.
Part of the problem is that every Hollywood production currently seems to be some sort of remake, reboot, or sequel. Nothing is original anymore. And part of Dirty Dancing ‘s appeal was that, at the time, it was so original: a nostalgic love story that appealed to both the Baby Boomers who came of age in the ’60s, and their teenage offspring who lapped up Swayze’s swiveling hips and Baby’s John Hughesian coming-of-age angst. (Some 17 years later, The Notebook would achieve a similar sort of universal cross-demographic domination, minus the big dance numbers and watermelon gags.)
It’s hard to replicate that spark, even when you’re tweaking story lines and adding new characters, as ABC has done with its miniseries. I’d rather watch the classic version, or see a separate, wholly original production that focuses on just those new story lines and characters. And with all due respect to Breslin, whom I loved in Little Miss Sunshine — another film I wouldn’t dare have remade — and this Prattes guy, who seems to have legit dance skills, trying to ape Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze’s on-screen chemistry is a fool’s errand.
Truly, though, anybody could be playing Baby and Johnny, and my feelings would remain unchanged. These remakes started out as a novelty; now novelties are the norm. At this point, an actual novelty would involve a screenwriter staring at a blank page and coming up with something fresh.
Sorry, but I just love this movie far too much to indulge in some lesser facsimile trying to ride on its coattails. Team Greyze 4 EVA.
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