Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ABC’s ‘Dirty Dancing’ Misses the Mark

Review of "Dirty Dancing."
Nicole Scherzinger, Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes in Dirty Dancing. (ABC)

TV MOVIE REVIEW

After the successes of NBC’s and FOX’s live musical adaptations of The Sound of Music and Grease among others, ABC has decided to throw its hat into the ring this week with a musical version of Dirty Dancing based on the 1987 movie of the same name. But this presentation is a different type of production altogether. Unlike the other productions, this one will not be presented live and is basically a longer remake of the original film. While all the main characters do sing in the movie, the majority of the music plays in the background and is sung by a variety of artists not featured in the movie. Many of the songs are cut short and unlike traditional musicals where characters suddenly break out in song, the characters here only sing when on stage or sing along with a record. This may be a plus for those who don’t like musicals, but overall, the actual characters sing so little in the film, that it actually feels strange when they do.

I have never seen the original Dirty Dancing movie with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, so this review will be strictly based on my observations of the ABC production and won’t be comparing it to the original. I have been told that the new version has built more storylines for some characters, but the story as a whole pretty much stays the same.

Review of "Dirty Dancing."
Bruce Greenwood, Abigail Breslin and Debra Messing. (ABC)
The story begins with the Houseman family spending the summer at a Catskills resort. Sister Lisa (Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland) is interested in meeting a potential husband while Frances (Abigail Breslin) is more interested in reading books about feminism and plans to become a doctor like her father. This resort is where mother Marjorie (Debra Messing) and father Jake (Bruce Greenwood) first met where the latter served as a waiter. Marjorie hopes that the return visit will add a little spark to their marriage.

Upon arrival, Frances is captivated by the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny (Colt Prattes) and his dance partner, Penny (Nicole Scherzinger). While Breslin does a great job playing the wide-eyed and innocent Frances, Prattes comes off as a stereotype and the two never really seem to make a real connection. However, Scherizinger is surprisingly good in her role and elevates the production. Katey Sagal vamps it up as the happily-divorced Vivian Pressman who shares with Marjorie the benefits of being divorced. She is known for taking private “dancing lessons” with Johnny. She has one song and dance number performing “Fever” which is quite good.


Review of "Dirty Dancing"
Colt Prattes and Katey Sagal (ABC)
Billy Dee Williams is also on hand playing the band leader. He appears in a brief scene or uttering about three lines of dialog about how black band member Marco (J. Quinton Johnson) shouldn’t socialize with the white women. Tony Roberts and Trevor Einhorn round out the cast as the resort’s owner and nephew respectively.

At first glance there is a lot to like with the new movie with its good casting choices and great dancing scenes, but overall, I found the three-hour production to be somewhat dull and even offensive. Most of the male characters are portrayed as jerks or are just stupid. Frances appears to have a great relationship with her father but when she stands up for herself and requests that he stop calling her “Baby,” he basically disowns her. His wife complains that he hasn’t touched her in over a year and he blames it on being too busy with his job. Fortunately, his character does comes around.

Dirty Dancing is also filled with double standards. One of the plot points in the story is set around an abortion of one of the characters. The man who impregnated the woman is looked down upon because “he got her pregnant” rather than acknowledging that sex outside of a committed relationship is risky. The woman says that she doesn’t sleep around and was in love with the man who is never named. He no longer wants anything to do with her and she needs to work. As to be expected, the concept of giving the child up for adoption or even raising the baby as her own isn’t even discussed. Abortion is the answer.

Review of "Dirty Dancing."
Sarah Hyland and  J. Quinton Johnson (ABC)
Even the hero of the story is “forgiven” for having sexual relations with an older woman while trying to woo a younger one at the same because the sex “didn’t mean anything.” The younger woman doesn’t even flinch when he tells her this. (I would think that a lot of the mothers watching this would have a problem with this type of message being taught to their daughters, but who knows.) Dirty Dancing feels more like an empowerment movie for women rather than a romance. (Yes, I believe both can be worked into the same story, but overall, the movie feels like it has an agenda.)

As a whole, the new Dirty Dancing isn’t terrible and things wrap up fairly nicely during the family’s last night at the resort. However, it is the film’s tacked on beginning and ending scenes showing a much older version of Frances attending a much older Johnny’s musical stage show (called ironically enough, Dirty Dancing) is odd and their interactions don’t play as true. Johnny’s last line, “Keep on dancing,” is almost worse than the iconic, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

Dirty Dancing will air on Wednesday, May 23 at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

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