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Movie Review

Neither a sequel nor a prequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is more like a re-imagining with new faces and a new setting.

It's 1958 and Cuba is on the edge of a Fidel Castro-led rebellion. But in Havana there's still as much dining and dancing going on as there is revolution. High school senior Katey Miller and her family have just moved to the bustling capital, her father having been transferred there by Ford Motor Co., and she's instantly captivated by the music, the mood and the beauty she sees all around her.

She's also captivated by a young man named Javier. And naturally, he's a smashingly good dancer. Enter Patrick Swayze, in a cameo appearance, to encourage Katey to put her blossoming skills to the test in a big dance competition, and the stage is set for romance and musical maneuvering.

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Positive Elements

Characters and their life circumstances are pretty thin, but it's still encouraging to see Katey apologize to her dad for being a pill about their move. (She also asks forgiveness for lying to him during the time she's trying to cover up her dance practices, but she blows that one, quickly following up with an angry, "I'm going to be up there [at the competition] no matter what you and Mom think!") Dad assures Katey that she's the most important thing in his life—much more important than his job.

Katey expresses disgust and irritation when another girl hurls a racial slur at Javier. And without actually doing anything about it—she's not really in a position to—her words and actions illuminate the inequities of racial discrimination ("There is no us," she exclaims when her sister puts down Javier for not being "like us").

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Katey's mom describes her daughter's "dirty dancing" as "[making love] with that boy." Apt. Numerous scenes feature Katey, Javier and many others at nightclubs and contests groping, clutching and "grinding." (Javier explains that the reason he dances so sensually is because it's a symbol of freedom handed down from the days of slavery.) In the first Dirty Dancing movie, a dance move Jennifer Grey's character Baby has to loosen up about and learn to like in order to really groove is one in which her partner runs his hand down her arm and the side of her torso. In this update, that sliding hand is shifted to Katey's front, between her breasts.

Katey (and other women) often wear revealing dresses with low necklines. She's also seen wearing only her slip.

An American boy who's sweet on Katey tries to take advantage of her on their first date. (She forcefully stops him before he gets very far.) It's implied—via passionate kissing beforehand and casual lounging afterwards—that Katey and Javier have sex on the beach.

Violent Content

During a street melee, people run frantically in all directions as police attempt to round up political dissidents. When Javier's brother, Carlos, brings a gun to a club in order to assassinate a man, panic ensues. The gun goes off and patrons race for cover. A policeman captures Carlos and forces him to his knees, but Javier knocks the man aside before he can kill him. Javier and Carlos scuffle briefly. That scuffle, however, is triggered by Javier's feeling that just because their father lost his life "for the revolution," doesn't mean Carlos has the right to kill "someone else's father."

Katey's mom slaps her for mouthing off. Katey slaps her would-be American suitor when he gets fresh.

Crude or Profane Language

Fewer than a half-dozen mild profanities ("d--n," "a--" and "h---"). God's name is misused about that many times as well. An American girl hurls a hateful racial insult at a hotel waiter.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Since much of the dancing takes place in nightclubs, alcohol makes frequent appearances, though it's mostly consumed by incidental characters. Friends of Katey's sister tease Katey by saying she needs a Shirley Temple since she's not ready for a real drink. Katey's parents both imbibe at least once. Katey's American "beau" blames his sexual "presumptiveness" on drunkenness. Girls smoke cigarettes. Katey's dad is seen with a cigar.

Other Negative Elements

When Katey finds out Javier is repainting stolen cars for money, she affirms his actions, saying, "Keeping your family alive is the most important thing you could do."

Conclusion

Nothing in Havana Nights will shock anyone already familiar with 1987's Dirty Dancing. The music—which is actually the highlight of the film—is Afro-Cuban and Latin instead of "American Oldies," so there are certainly differences in the style of dancing. But there's very little difference in the sexual intensity expressed.

Instead of using class divisions and abortion as points of conflict, this movie uses racial divides and Castro's populist revolution. But in both films, the girls' parents are too-easily won over after being deliberately deceived. Also in both films, the shredding of one's sexual inhibitions is something to aspire to and is equated with the development of maturity.

In the '80s, Dirty Dancing seemed like a big deal. It was edgy and a little dangerous. But then, MTV was only a few years old. Hip-hop wasn't a national phenomenon. Breasts weren't being forcibly bared during Super Bowl halftime shows. And teens weren't "grinding" at their homecoming dances. Now, Havana Nights seems downright tame and restrained. Not that that makes it pure and wholesome entertainment—families should never evaluate movies based on cultural mile markers. But it does put things in perspective. It should also make us all wish we could rewind a few years to a time when this movie would generate some controversy.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Diego Luna as Javier Suarez; Romola Garai as Katey Miller; Sela Ward as Jeannie Millier; John Slattery as Bert Miller; Jonathan Jackson as James Phelps; Mika Boorem as Susie Miller; January Jones as Eve; Rene Lavan as Carlos Suarez; cameo appearance by Patrick Swayze

Director

Guy Ferland ( )

Distributor

Lionsgate

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Steven Isaac

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