|Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
2004 - PG-13 - 86 Mins.
|Director: Guy Ferland
|Producer: Sarah Green, Lawrence Bender, Herbert Ross
|Written By: Boaz Yakin, Victoria Arch, Christina Wayne, Ronald Bass, Pamela Gray
|Starring: Romola Garai, Diego Luna, January Jones, Mya, Jonathan Jackson
|Review by: Joe Rickey
Guy Ferland’s (The Showtime Original Movie ‘Bang Bang, You’re Dead’) ‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ is a film most would rightly have low expectations for. After all, it is basically a remake of the original ‘Dirty Dancing’ with a change of scenery to Cuba during the time of Castro’s revolution. Once again, it tells the tale of a naïve American girl (Romola Garai, ‘I Capture the Castle’) meeting a more seasoned boy (Diego Luna, ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’) who teaches her the art of salsa dancing and, more importantly, of the nuances of life while falling in love. The film certainly could have been dreadful and much-maligned, but while it is not terrific, nor is it terrible. Instead, it is just sort of innocuous and altogether average in most everyway possible.
‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ is a film of two qualities. First off, the film tries to insert the viewer into the time period and location of Cuba during the time of the political revolution. The film further attempts to develop drama over the unrest by having various characters bring up the topic every so often. This technique never really works to full effect because it makes what could be potentially invigorating and thought-provoking moments instead come across as tedious and juvenile in the way much of it is handled. If one were to guess, there was little interest on the part of the filmmakers on this part of the story so they decided to gloss over it in the rush to get to the dance floor and the sexy salsa dancing that the original film was known for. A cast of supporting actors who stand around also hurts the film; seeming to not have a clue what they are supposed to be doing. They deliver their lines with a mechanical stiffness not unlike C-3PO from ‘Star Wars.’
The film, however, does excel when it comes to the multiple dancing sequences and competitions. They are well filmed from countless different camera angles; the cinematography sharp at all times. Patrick Swayze himself even manages to show up as a dance instructor for Garai’s character. He looks as young and fleet on foot as ever before. By including so many dance sequences, the film smartly plays up its single strongest asset.
The lead performances from Garai and Luna are a mixed bag. At times, Garai is elegant and altogether fine but at other times she comes across as mechanical as the supporting performances. Her on-screen partner Luna shares a similar fate as he too is inconsistent in his performance. It is perhaps fitting then that their chemistry manages to work because their scenes together seem to gel more often than not.
‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ by all accounts should have been a pathetically terrible film for multiple reasons, foremost is the fact that it, in the end, is a story that didn’t need to be told or a sequel that needed to be made for any other reason to take advantage of the public’s nostalgia for the original film. Instead, it is a rather bland and forgettable film that only really works when the characters aren’t talking and are instead on the dance floor doing their thing.