Dir: Guy Ferland. US 2004. 87 mins
The original Dirty Dancing made a star of Patrick Swayze, became one of the surprise hits of the late 1980s and grossed an $163m worldwide. Set in the Catskills in 1963, it introduced a predominantly female audiences to the catchphrase "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" as it powered its way to an impressive (for the time) $63.5m box office at home and a long healthy life on ancillary.
Its successor, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, is a revamped, coming-of-age story that relocates the plot 2,000 miles south and five years back in time to 1958 Cuba, just months before the Revolution that installed Fidel Castro.
It is unlikely to enjoy the success of its predecessor, although it is perhaps unfair to judge Havana Nights' long-term prospects by its US opening. As with every other film that bowed during the first weekend in March, it found its box office impacted by the phenomenal success of The Passion Of The Christ. As a result it took $5.8m from 2,042 screens.
Religious-minded parents may have taken their offspring with them to Gibson's film or simply forbade their youngsters from attending a movie that, although rated PG-13, suggested sexual shenanigans. A poor theatrical showing notwithstanding, the picture should have a long and prosperous shelf life in video and DVD.
Modern teens may judge some of the dialogue between the two leads as cheesy although it has enough hooks to ensure a smaller slice of the repeat business that made the original the 11th biggest film of 1987.
Seventeen-year old Katey Miller (Garai) moves to Havana with her family when her dad gets a new job. They move into the city's most elegant hotel. Shy and studious, Katey is put off by the other ex-pat kids, who are pampered, snobbish and flat-out rude to the locals who serve them at the hotel. Even Katey's younger sister Susie (Mika Boorem) gets caught up in the false values, and when she sees that Katey has befriended Javier (Luna), one of the waiters, she gets him fired.
Katey feels responsible and, having glimpsed Javier undulating to an Afro-Cuban beat, asks him to partner with her in the big, New Year's Eve Latin Dance Competition. Top prize is $5,000. Thanks to a good gene pool - mom (Ward) and dad (Slattery) were professional ballroom dancers at one time - her dancing quickly improves. It also gets noticeably hotter, a product of her blossoming romance with Javier.
Needless to say, when Katey's parents learn of the relationship, they disapprove. But they soon have bigger worries, as the discontent of the Cuban people, simmering for so many years, finally explodes into revolution.
Garai and, especially, Luna (the "other" boy from Y Tu Mama Tambien) are appealing and attractive. However, contemporary teenagers may find it more difficult to identify with Katey than they did with Baby (the Jennifer Grey character in the original film), who was more rebellious and slightly less naïve.
Still, it's hard to beat the sexy, colourful wardrobe (stylish work by designer Isis Mussenden) or the way both Garai and Ward look in their outfits.
Prod co: Artisan Entertainment, Miramax Films, Lawrence Bender Prods
US dist: Lions Gate Films
Intl dist: BVI (most); Jap, Asia, Fr sold via Summit
Exec prods: Bob Osher, Meryl Poster, Jennifer Berman, Amir Malin, Rachel Cohen
Prods: Lawrence Bender, Sarah Green
Scr: Boaz Yakin, Victoria Arch from a story by Kate Gunzinger, Peter Sagal
Cine: Anthony Richmond
Prod des: Hugo Luczye-Wyhowski
Ed: Scott Richter, Luis Colina
Music: Heitor Pereira
Chore: JoAnn Jansen
Main cast: Romol Garai, Diego Luna, Sela Ward, John Slattery, Jonathan Jackson, Mika Boorem, Patrick Swayze