‘Dirty Dancing’ remake: Maybe it’s not such a bad idea

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The collective groan could be heard practically the moment Lionsgate announced a ‘Dirty Dancing’ remake with Kenny Ortega.

Did we need another reboot of a music-themed ‘80s movie? What with ‘Fame’ and the upcoming ‘Footloose’ more than satisfying our (meager) appetite?


More important, how could you possibly remake a movie that was rooted in period assumptions — not just the pre-feminist mores of the movie’s 1963 setting but also those of the 1987 into which it came out? Back then, at least the idea of dancing as a taboo still resonated slightly with a teenage audience, if only because of things our parents told us. Anyone who was a teenager or twentysomething circa 2011 would not only not understand the idea of a forbidden boogie, they’d probably find the dirty dancing of the original less dirty than anything they’d do themselves.

The remake didn’t even have the ‘wholesale reinvention’ shield to hide behind, since Lionsgate said the new film would be set in the 1960s and even include music from the Jennifer Grey-Patrick Swayze original.

But if the announcement lent itself to some easy punch lines (e.g., ‘at her age, maybe Baby should stay in the corner’), it’s also not, on further reflection, a terrible idea.

Ortega, for one, offers some hope. He choreographed the original, so at least he understands the moves that made us (and Ryan Gosling’s ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ paramours) swoon. And the filmmaker has pulled off a feat like this before with the Michael Jackson concert documentary ‘This Is It,’ breathing life into what some saw as a tired music-film genre.

What’s more, the idea of building a movie around youthful rebellion and identity has never been more timely in this age of ‘Glee’ and ‘High School Musical.’ Plus, think of the tearful tributes to Jerry Orbach and Swayze.

In its announcement, Lionsgate said that its new ‘Dirty Dancing’ will portray ‘the emotional excitement of first love, the thrills and complexity of sexual awakening ... and the soul-stirring power of dance.’ That sounds better than at least half the movies out there.


Dirty Dancing at the Pantages

Dirty Dancing to be remade

Dirty Dancing, the mega-hit musical

— Steven Zeitchik