Five Reasons why ABC's "Dirty Dancing" Remake Sucks
I remember being reluctant to watch Dirty Dancing when I was a kid because the title sounded, well, gross to me. When I finally watched the movie, it became one of my favorites. Of course I had to watch ABC's remake despite seeing multiple headlines stating how awful it is. It can't be that bad, I thought.
I thought wrong.
I know a lot of people are against remakes in general. I am not one of them. I loved Disney's live-actions remakes of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. I even enjoyed the stage version of Dirty Dancing: it was cute and fun. However, there's a difference between remaking something and just vomiting all over it. As you can probably guess, ABC did the latter.
Here are just a few of the ways ABC screwed up what should have been an easy win:
Terrible New Dialogue
As I said, I am a big fan of the 1987 Dirty Dancing—enough of a fan that I've watched it with the writer, Eleanor Bergstein's, commentary. From that commentary and multiple viewings of the film, I've come to appreciate the very careful, deliberate choices that were made with the script. The character's emotions are conveyed by what they don't say almost as much as what they do say.
Well, whoever was in charge of this new script decided that wasn't good enough. We needed more explanation! More unnecessary backstory! More foreshadowing! More exposition! Hey, they needed something besides a crap-ton of commercials to fill three whole hours.
I knew I was in for a bad experience when, after Baby first dances with Johnny, Billy says to her, "You'd better change your name, Kid, cuz you're not a baby anymore." Thanks, Billy. Just spell everything out for us. In general, the weirdness of Baby's nickname, themes of feminism and choice, and Johnny's "too cool for school" (yes, this phrase is really uttered in the movie) attitude were hammered in until I felt I needed an Advil.
Omission of Classic Material
While ABC managed to fit in a whole bunch of new crap that no one could have possibly care about, they somehow left out some of the classic scenes and dialogue that made the original Dirty Dancing magical.
Gone are some of the best lines, like this heart-wrenching gem from Baby:
Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you.
Also gone are Lisa's "Hula Hana" song, the struggle between Neil and Johnny over the final dance number (really, the whole dance crew is reduced to pretty much just Johnny and Penny), and Baby trying fruitlessly to convince Robbie to help Penny.
Themes of classism, trying to reconcile the old with the new, and the complex bond between sisters are stripped down so we can see Dr. and Mrs. Houseman do it. And so ABC could fit in more...
I say that a Dirty Dancing remake should have been a win because the original had good dance scenes, a great script, and amazing music. Don't mess around too much with those elements, and you've got, at worst, an enjoyable couple of hours. But for some reason, ABC couldn't resist a) crushing the soul out of the classic music that made certain scenes so memorable and b) adding new musical numbers that felt forced and awkward.
Never once as I watched the original did I think, "You know what would be great right now? If Vivian Pressman had a solo. And then Baby's dad had a solo. And her mom. And Penny. And, well, pretty much every character!" I felt almost ill when Penny started singing "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" as she taught Baby to dance, and the musical numbers only got worse from there.
I can't decide what was worse: those added numbers, or the butchered, new versions of the songs that made the original Dirty Dancing special. When Hungry Eyes started playing, my fiancé (who is not nearly as invested in Dirty Dancing as I) began shouting, "Why?" from the other room. "Hey Baby", "Love Man", "She's Like the Wind", and others were similarly ruined. Who were these new, "hip" versions of songs supposed to appeal to?
Frumpy Costumes for Baby
Someone at ABC must have decided that Abigail Breslin's chubby-by-Hollywood-standards body is an affront to the American viewers eyes and should be covered up at every turn. Instead of dressing her perfectly lovely figure in sexy dresses like this:
They put Abigail in a frock I could picture my 64-year-old mom picking out at Dress Barn.
And remember this steamy scene?
I guess New Johnny didn't heat the room up enough for New Baby, so she took matters into her own closet:
Come on, ABC. We viewers have all seen a woman above a size two wear shorts before. We can handle it.
An Abomination of a Prologue
ABC couldn't settle for setting Dirty Dancing's source material aflame like a bag of dog doo. They had to add an extra piece of trash to the pile they made.
At the beginning of the film, there's a confusing scene where an older Baby heads into a theater to see Dirty Dancing on Broadway. Um, what? Aren't we already watching Dirty Dancing? Oh, whatever... the Housemans are in the car now. Everything is just as it was.
Except it's not. The payoff for this odd scene comes at the very end of the film, right after the iconic (now ruined) "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" dance number.
It turns out that Johnny did make it to Broadway like Baby told him he should (love that foreshadowing)! He somehow wrote Dirty Dancing the musical. Or he choreographed it. Or something. Anyway, his name is attached to the play.
When the play ends, Baby and Johnny chat about how they changed each other's lives for the better and blah, blah, blah. Then a little girl walks out and calls Baby "Mommy". For a second you think, "Whoa, did Baby and Johnny have a KID?" And then the dreams of your youth are crushed forever when Baby's husband appears.
Look, we all know Baby and Johnny lasting as a couple wasn't realistic. But we wanted to believe, dammit! ABC, has being under the same umbrella as Disney taught you nothing about dreams and magic?
Thanks, ABC, for turning the time of our lives into time we'll never get back.