Projections - Movie Reviews
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Dirty Dancing Havana Nights
Starring Diego Luna, Romola Garai, Sela Ward,
John Slattery, Jonathan Jackson, January Jones

Some steamy salsa moves and engaging leads provide pleasure in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights in spite of an increasingly silly storyline and an unconvincing portrait of Cuba as Castro's regime is about to take over.

One wonders why this Dirty Dancing has to be set in 1958 Havana with good use of Puerto Rico for plenty of scenes which try hard to conjure up memories of the 1987 hit starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Claiming that it's based on true events, the target demographic will be pleased with what occurs on the dance floor and the hip-hop and soul sounds that comprise the soundtrack. Yet, even they will find the predictability and triteness of what transpires, less alluring than what it could have been.

It's hard not to fault some of the casting, especially Romola Garai as Katey Miller and Diego Luna (U Tu Mama Tambien) as Javier. The scholarly Katey is a pretty high schooler headed for Radcliffe when her parents think dad's boss' son (Jonathan Jackson) is attracted to her and think he is a good catch.

But, Javier, the busboy at their hotel where the waiting staff is underappreciated by Americans, has already made an impression on Katey when he lets the rhythm in his blood out on the streets. Katey is a skilled formal dancer gleaned from the excellence of her parents ballroom dancing, but she is captivated by the expression of Javier, especially in a nightclub called Rosa Negra in a lower-class neighborhood.

The big dance of Havana Nights turns out to be a competition with a top prize of $5000, money that Javier needs for his family after he loses his position because of his relationship with Katey. The rehearsal for this important event has their scandalous relationship blossoming from moments on the beach rooftops and in a montage sequence. Swayze is back as an instructor of Katey.

The first round of the dance contest features a very seductive routine with Javier and Katey, who unfortunately and unexpectedly have her parents and dad's boss on hand to see it. They don't like her daughter doing such a thing with a poor local, yet her polishing of old ballroom techniques make them proud. Similar to the narrative of The Dreamers, the time she spends at Javier's residence without parental permission puts the screenplay under further scrutiny for its time.

Before the climax, Havana Nights showcases weak dialogue and line readings that elicited laughter among more than a few at a recent screening. The direction keeps the revolutionary turmoil on a lower setting than the dancing, inspired by the life of JoAnn Jansen, the film's choreographer. Those who actually lived in Cuba at that time might be puzzled by how easily the Americans and Cubans interacted. Nevertheless, while there really is no “Time of your life” to be had in this Latin re-imagining faraway from the Catskills. The music and dancing has enough a charm to it, to make some couples swing over to their favorite club and let themselves go.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

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