Dirty Dancing remake is a big mistake
Dirty Dancing, the 1987 classic, had real chemistry between Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze - and any remake would not capture their magic.
The markets are going to hell in a handcart, London is a riot zone and there’s famine in Africa. We need cheering up - so perhaps that’s why Hollywood’s men in suits have deemed that it is exactly the right time to remake Dirty Dancing.
The new movie will be directed by Kenny Ortega, the man responsible for both Michael Jackson’s This Is It and High School Musical. He was also, in 1987, the choreographer on the original.
That fact should make fans feel reassured: a man who was involved in the first film, is unlikely to traduce its memory when he makes it for a new generation. And he provided the choreography for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, another tick in his favour.
Even so, the decision to go for a remake still feels like a terrible mistake. I can’t think of a single classic movie that has actually been better second time around.
This is in part because the circumstances in which a film is made are often part of the qualities it exhibits. In the case of Dirty Dancing, there was absolutely nothing riding upon it. It was a low-budget movie, without stars, made by a new studio. But based on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein’s own childhood, it had enormous charm - and a kind of honesty as it looked back to a time when its heroine could while away the summer before she joined the Peace Corps, holidaying at a summer camp with her parents.
There she discovers that her idealistic view of the world is not always as easy to apply in practice as it had seemed. So she learns about life. But she also - and this is the key to the ongoing success of the film - learns about love. And she does all of this, by discovering how to dance.
The chemistry between Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze, as Baby and Johnny, was one of those lucky chances. They’d worked together before and didn’t get on that well off screen - but their scenes together in front of the camera, often improvised, have a kind of magic.
That spontaneity and warmth is the quality that has made Dirty Dancing so loved; Ortega will do well to reproduce even a tiny bit of it in a remake that every fan around the world will be waiting to criticise.