Stop Hating On The Dirty Dancing Remake — I Actually Loved It

Photo: Guy D’Alema/ABC.
I have hated many things in my life. I despise La La Land. I openly decried High School Musical as a tween. I think Jon Hamm is a middling actor, and cake is dry powder that would better serve humanity as a foam mattress.
However, I did not hate the Dirty Dancing remake on ABC.
I get it; remakes of great movies are blasphemous. During the movie's May 24 premiere, Twitter brandished its pitchforks and came for the Abigail Breslin vehicle. Let me rephrase that. Twitter slashed the movie with a thousand tiny cuts and then proceeded to pour lemon juice on the whole affair. The internet apparently hates two things: Donald Trump, and fun, made-for-TV adaptations of great movies.
My not-so-hot take on the movie is that it wasn't bad, or as "unsexy as a box of noodles," as one of my colleagues put it — Dirty Dancing was fun! For me, it was a solid reminder that dance movies used to be good. Given the proper treatment, films about hip-wiggling and epic backbends are the stuff of movie legends, and I'll say it: This movie was treated decently well. (The grand exception is Ms. Abigail Breslin, but more on that later. She's excused.)
The main quibble I have with other dance musicals is that they simply don't cast dancers or singers. See: the aforementioned — almost Oscar-winning — La La Land. Ryan Gosling is not a dancer. Nor is Emma Stone. The same goes for High School Musical, which cast the teen sensation Zac Efron despite the fact that he literally did not have the range for the movie. I don't know why people aren't still tweeting about that.
Dirty Dancing, by contrast, was populated with people who could sing, dance, and (sorta) act. Colt Prattes is a veteran dancer who once appeared in a music video with Pink. Sarah Hyland, who played Baby's sister Lisa in the movie, has demonstrated some serious pipes in the past. Add to that cast Debra Messing, Nicole Scherzinger, and celebrity backup dancer Casper Smart, and you've got a cast that can actually have the time of their lives.
The original is tremendously successful for the same reason. Patrick Swayze was a dancer — like an honest-to-goodness Broadway dancer. The infectious, unbridled joy of the original comes courtesy of the dancing. Who can forget the the first time they, like Baby, witnessed the camp staff breaking it down to "Do You Love Me"?
Breslin, admittedly, is no dancer. When her version of Baby must suddenly demonstrate her "skills," she's sorely lacking. If we're putting verisimilitude on a pedestal — something most critics do that I don't always endorse — I'd say that's exactly how this real-life situation would unravel. Baby isn't a dancer in the beginning of the movie; she's a bookish girl who's never been kissed. For her to don a leotard and learn to groove in the space of a summer is a little unbelievable. Breslin, to her credit, is peak awkward teen girl, replete with shirts that don't fit and an unfortunate haircut. Jennifer Grey in the original film was 27 playing 17. Breslin is 21 playing 17. It's a little more sensible, although not very comfortable. (Prattes, by contrast, is 31. The most egregious error this movie made was putting these two together. Age difference aside, I will admit their chemistry was lacking.)
For me, this Dirty Dancing did exactly what it was supposed to do: It brought me back to the era of imperfect hairstyles, fancy-free dance moves, and sweaty summer fun. I laughed. I rewatched the dance scenes. I tied my pajama shirt below my ribs and remembered to step on the 2 and the 4. I fought the desire to stay up another two hours and watch Center Stage.
Haters will hate because it's not the original. I hate to break it to you, but nothing will ever be the original and nothing is sacred. Consider this remake a sacrifice at the altar of Dirty Dancing, an ode to years past, when dancing the twist was a national pastime.
Meanwhile, I'll be in my white sneakers doing this:


More from TV


R29 Original Series