Dirty Dancing (1987)
Directed by Emile Ardolino

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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A young woman nicknamed Baby (Jennifer Grey) arrives at a mountain resort with her affluent family. There she meets Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a professional dancer. When Johnny's partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), learns she is pregnant, Baby volunteers to learn how to dance so that she can take her place. Meanwhile, Baby and Johnny begin to fall in love, despite the former's need to keep their romance a secret from her family.

Emile Ardolino's Dirty Dancing is contrived and overwrought, but, thanks to its well choreographed musical numbers, it is also intermittently entertaining.

The story the director tells is invariably prosaic, generally cloying, and sometimes forced. In fact, the viewer is likely to be irked, on more than one occasion, by the narrative's tiresome predictability, as well as by the shallow, syrupy emotions in which most of its events are drowned. There is absolutely nothing original or genuinely affecting in the movie. Ardolino's relation of the love of the spoiled, idealistic Baby for the rough, streetwise Johnny is wholly conventional, and many of the hardships the pair endure are the result of the most ridiculous of misunderstandings. Baby's father, for instance, hates Johnny not only because the handsome dancer is from the wrong economic class, but also because he believes the young man impregnated his own partner. This belief, naturally, is the result of his completely misinterpreting a comment Johnny makes. Of course, he is forced, in the end, to accept Baby's romance and even learns that it was a young college student who was responsible for Penny's condition, not Johnny. I cannot believe that there is any person who will not be able to foresee every event included in the film long before it is shown on screen.

Fortunately, the dance sequences, while never inspired, are nicely choreographed, innocently sensuous, and generally enjoyable. Although they are neither made to burn with some fierce sexuality nor suffused with a captivating beauty, they are nicely done. They certainly provide the movie with its best moments. In fact, without these routines, Dirty Dancing would be entirely unwatchable.

Finally, I should note that none of the actors give inspired performances. Swayze is, as always, wooden and Grey is hardly memorable, but neither is unbearable. Moreover, both do acquit themselves well as dancers. Most of the supporting actors, however, realize their characters as complete caricatures, and many can, consequently, be a little aggravating.

There is really very little to be said about Dirty Dancing. It is a silly vacuous film, but it is, from time to time, reasonably entertaining.

Review by Keith Allen

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