What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this 1960s-set forbidden romance is a guilty pleasure, due to several campy scenes, flashy dance sequences, and appealing performances by its main characters. Although some parents may find the dancing a little too dirty, teenage viewers will be captivated by the flashy fantasy of star-crossed summer romance. Sexual references abound here beyond the dance moves: one character has a botched abortion, the main character loses her virginity, and another talks about her plans to go all the way. An older married woman propositions younger men on staff at the resort and sleeps with one.
What's the story?
Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her family spend their summer vacation at a Catskills resort where Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) works. Baby runs into this handsome dance instructor from the wrong side of the tracks at a forbidden, wild "dirty dance" party his friends throw after work. To supplement their meager earnings, Johnny and his partner Penny do a mambo show at a neighboring hotel. When Penny gets pregnant by one of the hotel waiters, she finds out the only time she can get an abortion is the night of a big show. The naïve Baby steps in determined to help, asking her father for abortion money and no questions asked before desperately trying to learn the mambo in time. Romance takes off, as it should, on the dance floor with a great '60s soundtrack (a cute touch: many of the tunes have "baby" somewhere in the title). Johnny's drawn to Baby's fierce optimism and Baby is drawn to -- well, he's Patrick Swayze! They're found out, of course, and come back together for one last dance.
Is it any good?
Unabashedly schmaltzy, DIRTY DANCING is also a lot of fun. Jennifer Grey is touching as the shy and idealistic Baby, whose sexuality is awakened by Patrick Swayze's energy. Both are exceptionally well cast, and their skillful and convincing performances bolster some of the story's weaker elements, like the many stock characters and predictable events.
Swayze is given some of the worst dialogue here, and it's remarkable that he's able to make the immortal line "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" sound almost natural. Teens will get past such corny dialogue because of the dance sequences which effectively mirror Baby and Johnny's emotions. As the two become more drawn to each other, the dancing becomes more seductive, culminating in the liberating energy of the final scene.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the film's sexual themes.
How does each family member feel about teenage sex?
As a teenager, what would you do if you were pressured to have sex?
What do you feel about the conflict between Baby and her father?