Dirty Dancing (2017)

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Dirty Dancing (2017) Movie Poster Image
Remake can't recapture original magic but still entertains.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Baby's transformation from quiet and bookish to outgoing and confident is inspiring, but it comes at the expense of her losing her innocence. Many storylines have mature themes; a lonely divorcee seduces a young man, Penny's pregnancy and botched abortion threatens her life, a middle-aged couple considers divorce, racial and socioeconomic divisions cause prejudice (an African-American man tells a teen, "Leave the little white girls alone," for instance), and so on. In every case, the content is presented thoughtfully, and there often are indicators of attitudes changing in positive ways, especially with regard to gender roles and race relations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the main characters wrestle with difficult circumstances and uncertainties of some kind, and the movie doesn't sugarcoat the process. Ultimately each discovers the value of being true to himself/herself and honest with others, which helps all of them dismiss prejudice that exists at the story's start. Some adults manipulate or use their influence on others in negative ways.

Violence
Sex

A couple of sex scenes are more suggestive than graphic (including one where a teen loses her virginity), but couples are shown cuddling in bed after the act. Lots of sultry dancing and suggestive moves with partners rubbing up against and wrapping their legs around each other. A divorcee entertains Johnny in her cabin on a few occasions (mostly kissing and implied physical contact). A man tries to force himself on a young woman. Johnny is shirtless in a few scenes, and Baby is shown in a bra.

Language

Rarely "hell" and "jackass."

Consumerism

This movie remakes the '80s classic of the same name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink wine together, and Johnny is shown drinking as well.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dirty Dancing is a remake of the same-named 1987 classic and stars Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes in the roles made famous by Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. It sticks pretty close to the original plot, but there's additional emphasis on issues such as race relations and the class divisions that exist in the '60s-set story. Though not as steamy as the original, there's a lot of sexy content, including talk of Baby losing her virginity (it's not shown, but foreplay and cuddling in bed afterward is), a physical relationship between Johnny and a middle-aged woman, and, of course, plenty of suggestive dancing. A main character's unplanned pregnancy and botched abortion are prominent topics, and there's an incident in which a teen attempts to force himself on a girl. This version is plenty campy and not nearly as fluid as the original, but it's still a fun watch, and the story raises some significant issues to discuss with older tweens and teens.

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What's the story?

A resort vacation becomes a life-changing event for 18-year-old Frances "Baby" Houseman (Abigail Breslin) and her family in DIRTY DANCING. A few weeks in the Catskills should be just the thing for her overworked physician father (Bruce Greenwood), her frustrated middle-aged mother (Debra Messing), her husband-seeking older sister, Lisa (Sarah Hyland), and bookish Baby, but then fate steps in. For Baby, it takes the shape of Johnny (Colt Prattes), the lodge's resident dance instructor with a bad-boy reputation. When his dance partner, Penny (Nicole Scherzinger), finds herself in the family way, Baby offers to pay for dance lessons from Johnny to help out, and romance blooms for this unlikely couple. But assumptions run deep and suspicions abound about Johnny, threatening their relationship. Meanwhile, Lisa makes an unlikely friend of her own, and their parents struggle to rediscover their feelings for each other.

Is it any good?

Fans of the Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey original needn't worry that this remake will eclipse the first (and best) film in the eyes of viewers who indulge in both. Remaking a beloved classic like this one is risky business, and for the most part, Dirty Dancing does well by its updates while still staying true to the 1987 guilty pleasure. But the chemistry between Breslin and Prattes is minimal, their dancing is sluggish and a bit clunky, and the story drags in parts. What's more, scenes that were campy in the '80s are even more so now, despite the modernization. Often the Houseman family's subplots are more engaging than Johnny and Baby's slow-moving relationship as Lisa searches for a romantic interest and the girls' parents wrestle with the uncertainties of their marriage.

So what's good about this Dirty Dancing? Most of the dance scenes that don't partner Johnny and Baby are fun to watch, and the rebooted soundtrack is a true delight. The themes that emerge from the story remain relevant today, including evolving race relations (the movie is set in the '60s, so expect deep divides), changing gender roles, and socioeconomic prejudice. It's also full of affirming messages about love in many forms -- loving devotion between friends, interracial love, new romance just taking hold, and love that's conquered everything working against it. The bottom line? This version isn't the stuff of legend, but it still has merit for those who give it a chance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dirty Dancing presents sexuality. Teens: Given the show's setting in the 1960s, were you surprised at how physical the contact was between teens? Do the characters' experiences correspond with what you've witnessed among peers? Is the issue of pregnancy a cautionary one in this story?

  • In what ways are race and class relations better today than they were in the 1960s? Have we regressed in any aspects? What would your own personal utopia look like? What realities hinder that?

  • What roles do honesty and perseverance play in any successful relationship? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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