Just pretend for a second that Guy Ferland’s “Dirty
Dancing: Havana Nights” really is a companion movie to the
1987 classic “Dirty Dancing;” then, you’d have
yourself an original movie. Unfortunately, “Havana
Nights” relies too heavily on its predecessor for the plot,
actors, soundtrack and title, and makes a generally poor
remake.

The plot is a sloppy conglomeration of “Dirty
Dancing” and “Saturday Night Fever,” the main
difference being the backdrop of Cuban revolution. Rich goody-goody
Katey (Romola Garai, “Nicholas Nickelby”) finds herself
lost and alone in her upper class social circle. When she meets a
waiter, Javier (Diego Luna, “Y Tu Mama También”)
she’s intrigued by his steamy, free-flowing dance moves. As
the two become closer, a trouble far greater than the easily
surmountable language barrier ensues.

The movie skillfully attempts to depict a country in political
turmoil, but the cheesiness and poor acting of Garai, who just
happens to be in almost every scene, smothers any chance of
“Havana Nights” stepping out of the “Dirty
Dancing” shadow. While a better dancer than Baby, Garai
flat-out stinks as the innocent Katey. Also, Patrick Swayze’s
small cameo appearance as a inspirational dance instructor
doesn’t help either.

Putting the deplorable performances aside, “Havana
Nights” is at least enjoyable to watch and listen to. The
dramatic colors emanate a 1950s aura of rich reds and soft pastels.
And aside from the updated versions of “The Time of My
Life” and “Dirty Dancing,” the soundtrack stands
out as uplifting and entertaining. Joann Fregalette Jansen’s
choreography is both creative and exciting.

If “Havana Nights” was supposed to be a dance movie,
then Ferland should have highlighted the dancing more. Instead, the
movie is lost, swaying back and forth between a remake, a political
drama and a romance. With a new lead actress, different plot and
original title void of the words “dirty” and
“dancing,” you have yourself a creatively original
movie. Or, if a dance movie starring Luna must do, please, unless
he is spoofing a Chippendales dancer, no Patrick Swayze.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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