Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Studio: Lions Gate
Film Length: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DD 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $26.98
Seventeen year old Katey Miller (Romola Garai) is upset when her family decides to move to Havana but things get even worse when she gets down there and realizes that her smart brain just isn’t a good fit with the local crowd. Her new friends are all dumb, arrogant and racist rich kids who look down on the poor and especially poor Cubans. Her parents have fixed her up with another rich kid but Katey finds him to be a bore especially after meeting a young Cuban boy named Javier (Diego Luna). Over a matter of minutes Katey and Javier learn they have plenty in common and one thing is that they both want to get out of Cuba. With a dance contest offering $5,000 in cash plus a trip to America, the two kids see a way of getting out but first they must learn how to dance as well as how to live in Castroland.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights isn’t that bad of a film but it’s a film no one really wants to see. The original film was a huge hit and has become one of the biggest cult films out there and since the original release date everyone has been wanting a sequel but not like this. With Patrick Swayze showing up halfway through, that doesn’t help matters too much either. This sequel tries to capture the mood and feeling of the original film but fails on every level. I’m sure the film would have been somewhat better had it not had so much to live up to.
This film tries so hard to get us to remember the original film that it never takes on any original ideas of its own so a viewer of the original film will find no drama here. Every time we’re introduced to a new character we’re just reminded that they are a stand in for someone from the original. Even the two leads are nothing more than a wannabe Swayze and Jennifer Gray, which again, just makes one want the original film. The girls parents aren’t any better because once again they don’t want their smart daughter throwing her life away for someone they consider a bum. We even get a sister that causes more problems than anything else. All of this is from the original film and it all plays out exactly like it did in the original, although this one here doesn’t feature any babies in corners.
Another boring subplot deals with some political unrest in Havana, which is supposed to be some dig at Castro but doesn’t belong in a film like this. None of these political themes go anywhere so my only guess is that they were thrown in to fill out the short eight-five minute running time. The one saving grace, like the original film, is the dancing and music but this too lacks any real lust or excitement because the two leads lack the chemistry from the first film. Romola Garal is great eye candy in those tight dresses showing off her cleavage but that she has going for her here. No matter what the scene is she comes off as being lost and her emotional scenes don’t play out any better. Sela Ward gives another awful performance as the mean spirited mom who turns out to love her daughter more than she realized. Patrick Swayze is good in his small role but there’s not enough here for him to do except scream out and remind everyone he was in the original film.
The best thing in the film is Diego Luna from Y Tu Mama Tambien[/i] who gives a very good performance and certainly has the energy to carry a film. Apparently he had six weeks to learn all the dances and he learned them quite well considering he does come off looking like a professional dancer. Another plus is the wonderful Latin soundtrack, which keeps things moving and this is coming from someone who can’t stand listening to Latin music. In the end however, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is nothing more of a rehash of the first film, which isn’t good considering how loved that film is. It took over a decade for a sequel to arrive and it looks like something better could have happened in that time.
VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality is very good throughout, which is a new trend for Lions Gate who has had some spotty releases in the past. There’s nothing here that jumps out screaming this is a great transfer but for a low budget film there aren’t any major problems. The biggest highlight to the transfer is that the film hosts the most beautiful colors that really come off looking great with the transfer. The Puerto Rican sunsets are a vivid pink and the neon outfits really jump off the screen. The best scene is the semi-final dance sequence, which features dim lighting with a room full of neon and bright colored clothes dancing across the room. All the colors are very rich and full a nice detail. Flesh tones also look quite accurate throughout, although there’s one scene on the beach (Chapter 10), which appears to have the contrast up a bit too high, although this could have been the way the film was meant to look. Black levels are rich and deep throughout. Being a new film, there are no scratches, grain or other speckles on the print thankfully.
AUDIO---The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite nice and ranks up there with the best of the year. This isn’t an action film so you shouldn’t expect anything like that but the music is enough action to push this track over the edge. There’s a lot of dialogue throughout the film, which sounds full and rich without any distortion. Surround effects are also nicely used for smaller scene like a walk on the beach where the waves are crashing to the sides while dialogue is being spoken. The music is mixed in wonderfully well and sound remarkable with a high fidelity and a large frequency response. The bass action is also very good especially during the opening segment.
EXTRAS---Up first is an audio commentary with co-producer JoAnn Jansen and producer Sarah Green. There’s not too much good detail given about the film and for the most part the two women just sit there telling one another how great the other’s work is, which gets very boring very quickly. Apparently the film is based on the true story of Jansen so she spends a great deal of time talking about her life, which is even more boring. By the middle point of the track you’ll know everything about the two women yet you still haven’t learned anything about the movie. Up next is a Multi Angle Dance Sequence, which is pretty fun to mess around with. With are given two different dance sequences and via the remote can select from four different angles to play with. Thankfully they selected a good dance sequence so you should have fun with this one. Next up is a small featurette called Baila! A Dance Piece, which features interviews, rehearsals and audition tapes for both Diego Luna and Romola Garai. This is a somewhat interesting piece that starts off telling us that the actors didn’t know how to dance and quickly goes over how they learned. The audition footage is a lot of fun because it’s clear the two did their homework in learning the dance moves. Inside Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is the second featurette, which takes a closer look at the production but this here is just as boring as the commentary track. Once again we’ve gotta hear stories about the true adventures of Jansen, which again are very boring. Other parts of the production are covered but they’re all fairly boring and useless. Up next is a theatrical trailer as well as a music video for “I Love U 2 Much”. Finally we get ten deleted/or extended scenes, which you can select one by one or there’s a play all option. Looking through all ten you can tell they were thankfully cut because it appears the screenplay had a lot more dramatic tone in mind, which certainly wouldn’t have been a good thing. There’s also scenes that once again remind you of the original film so these here certainly should have remained on the editor’s floor.
OVERALL---In all honesty I was expecting a very bad movie but the thing turned out better than expected. That’s still not saying much because there isn’t an original idea throughout the film. The dancing is nice, if not very sexy but the political garbage is just silly and that’s not what people want to see out of a Dirty Dancing movie. Lions Gate offers a very nice DVD with a wonderful transfer and a high kicked soundtrack but the extras are rather weak. Fans of the original might be curious about this one but I’d suggest you rent it first.
Release Date: July 20, 2004