Film Length: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (185:1)
Audio: DD 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1 EX, DD 2.0 Surround
Retail price: $19.95
Released in August 1987, Dirty Dancing had a great title, which made the film a hit with younger audience members who were blown away by the soundtrack and the two leads. The critics at the time hated the film calling it corny and a fake yet sixteen years later the film is looked back on as a cult classic, which is why Artisan is set to release their third DVD of this film but this one here is promised as the “Ultimate Edition”.
In the summer of 1963, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) goes to the Catskills for a three week vacation with her father (Jerry Orbach), her mother (Cynthia Rhodes) and her older, most experienced sister Lisa (Jane Bruckner). Baby’s name fits her just fine because she’s the angel of the family and in her father’s eyes, she will always be his little baby. At the summer resort the two sisters talk about boys and love but Baby doesn’t see too much in the snotty group of rich people.
One night she sneaks off from the resort and finds herself in a smaller club full of rock music and dirty dancing. Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a dance instructor at the resort, catches Baby’s eyes but she knows that she’d never be good enough for him. As fate would have it Johnny’s dancing partner is unable to perform so Johnny decides to take Baby and teach her how to dance. Since this is dirty dancing Baby knows that her parents wouldn’t approve so she must sneak out to meet Johnny and before long the two start falling in love but in that day and age the bad boy can’t be seen with the good girl. All of this leads up to Baby being put in the corner.
I had just turned seven years old when Dirty Dancing was released in theaters and I remember crying the entire drive to the theaters because my mother was forcing me to see a “chick” film with her. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say this but I left the theater thinking I had just seen the greatest film ever made. When the movie was released on video I was at the store each weekend renting out the video only to watch it countless times over the weekend. In other words, this film was always amongst my favorite films but I hadn’t seen the film in over a decade so I wasn’t sure how my childhood memories would hold up in 2003.
Viewing Dirty Dancing as an adult I must say I’m embarrassed that I considered this one of the greatest films ever made but on the other hand I understand why this film is loved by many people. The movie, while nothing great, is still a lot of fun, although some of this fun enters the “so bad it’s good” category. For starters, the performances from Swayze and Grey are rather weak but at the same time they are good enough to put a smile on the viewers face as the two fight and eventually fall in love. The chemistry between the two makes for a good time and adds to the little love story that’s going on.
Another thing that keeps the movie going is its #1 soundtrack, which features classic songs as well as new material including (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, which was not only a big hit but an award winner. The ending of the film is without a doubt one of the most charming in film history as Baby gets out of the corner and dances the night away. The dance sequence is full of high energy that will have your feet moving along with the characters. All the dance sequences are quite impressive but that aside the film is still a character study.
The film features all the typical stereotypes, which leads to many unintentional laughs but these laughs just add to the fun hidden in this minor classic. The films message of the rich and poor is also laughable but they always follow this up with some sexy dancing so the political undertones are pretty much forgotten. The movie is very fast paced and its heart is in the right place, which is why Dirty Dancing has survived the past sixteen years and I’m sure we’ll have another DVD release within the next fifteen as more and more people are introduced to this film.
VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality on this new release is miles ahead of the previous two releases so there’s certainly reason for this upgrade. There’s some minor edge enhancement but this here isn’t too noticeable unless you’re right up on the screen looking for it. The black levels are very solid and strong. The colors are the most impressive thing about the transfer because I never noticed how striking everything looked until now.
AUDIO---You get the option of Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Dolby 2.0 Surround and a DTS ES 6.1 track. The 5.1 track is pretty close to the previous release, although you can tell the songs have been cleaned up with to make them sound even better. The dialogue is upfront and crystal clear and the highpoint, the songs of course, song wonderful and strong. The DTS track on the other hand is pretty pointless in my opinion. There’s really no difference between it and the 5.1 track in the dialogue and the songs don’t sound nearly as good here. In the DTS track the songs sound somewhat further away and there’s very little bass going on.
EXTRAS---Disc one features an introduction by Jennifer Grey, which is a very stupid and fake extras. This here runs two seconds with Grey telling people to enjoy the movie. Up next is an audio commentary by writer/producer Eleanor Bergstein, which is a carryover from the previous DVD. The track is fairly interesting since the film is based on Bergstein’s teen years. It’s interesting hearing her take on the original screenplay and how things actually turned out in the film. She’s constantly talking so there’s no downtime here. The second commentary track features production designer David Chapman, Director of Photography Jeff Jur, costume designer Hilary Rosenfeld and Choreographer’s Kenny Ortega and Miranda Garrison. This track is rather boring because not too much detail is given and what is told is rather useless information. There’s also a boring trivia track hidden in the audio menu.
Disc 2 is where we find the rest of the extras. Up first are interviews with Jennifer Grey, Kenny Ortega, Eleanor Bergstein and Miranda Garrison. Each interview lasts around ten minutes but you aren’t going to learn anything new unless you never heard an interview with any of these people. If you’ve ever read an interview or listened to a documentary on the film then everything said here will be common knowledge. Up next is Jennifer Grey’s screen test, which is rather interesting because she messes up several lines yet this got her the role. This here runs just over three minutes. Up next is a thirteen minute tribute to the director who passed over several years ago. We get to learn how he got his start in the business and his impact on this film. Next we get the films original theatrical trailer as well as music videos for Hungry Eyes, (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life and She’s Like the Wind. We also get a sneak peak at the upcoming sequel, which looks rather horrid and stupid. Finally we get Dirty Dancing: Live in Concert, which is a 90-minute video, which was released on video back when the film was. I watched this years ago and hated it just as much as I did this time around. The picture and audio are very good on this but there aren’t any chapter stops.
OVERALL---This certainly isn’t the greatest musical ever made but the film has some very charming moments, which makes the film worth watching at least once. Since this is the third DVD release most people will be asking if it’s worth the upgrade and I’d say yes since this here features an anamorphic transfer, which has better colors than the previous release. The 5.1 track is slightly better than the previous release as well but the DTS track isn’t anything worth listening to. The extras are rather boring because we’ve heard all the stories countless times before.
Release Date: December 9, 2003