It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I was not a fan of "Dirty Dancing," although $150 million in 1987 box-office dollars attempted, unsuccessfully, to convince me I was wrong. I thought Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey were terrific dancers, and I thought the plot was a clunker assembled from surplus parts at the Broken Plots Store. The actions of the characters (especially her parents) were so foreordained, they played like closing night of a run that had gone on way too long.
Now here is "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights." Same characters, new names, same plot, new location. The wealthy Miller family from St. Louis arrives in 1958 Havana with their teenage daughter Katey (Romola Garai). She is courted by young James Phelps (Jonathan Jackson), son of a wealthier family. Has anybody in the movies named Phelps ever been poor? She meets Javier Suarez (Diego Luna), a nice Cuban waiter about her age, and by her clumsiness gets him fired. But . . .
Well, of course she finds Phelps a bore and Javier a nice and considerate friend, not nearly as sexually vibrant, by the way, as Swayze. Except when he's dancing. She has to choose between the godawful official balls and the excitement at La Rosa Negra, the club where Javier and his friends hang out -- a club not a million miles distant in function from the disco in "Saturday Night Fever."
Can this white-bread American princess learn rhythm? Of course she can, with Javier wading with her into the ocean and teaching her to feel the motion of the waves and allow her body to sway with them, and to listen to the music as if it is the waves, while meanwhile perfecting choreography so complex and demanding that it would have had Rita Moreno, in her heyday, pleading for the Sloan's Liniment.