Dirty Dancing (1987)

7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking and sounding

Story has a lot of cliches and Swayze sometimes struggles as a lead

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Dirty Dancing

Studio:  Great American Films

Genre(s):  Romance/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 21, 1987

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


This dancing makes me feel so…dirty

It is 1963, and Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey), her father (Jerry Orbach), mother (Kelly Bishop), and sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) are headed off to the mountain dance resort of Kellerman’s in the Catskills.  There, Baby meets a dancer named Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and his dance partner named Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) who has gotten pregnant by the waiter (Robbie Gould) courting her sister.  When Baby is forced to stand in for Penny, she finds herself falling in love with Johnny but she knows that her father will never be able to accept him or his dreams.

Directed by Emile Ardolino, Dirty Dancing was a musical coming-of-age romance and became a breakaway hit.  With positive reviews and a rabid fan base, the movie became an instant success and continued to be an influential cult hit.  The film also contained a hit soundtrack that became one of the top selling albums of all time.  The movie won an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.


Just because I’m called Baby doesn’t mean I like to crawl

In 1987, it seemed like Dirty Dancing was everywhere.  The movie became a cultural phenomenon with dirty dancing classes popping up all over, the music on the radio, and the cast getting major attention.  I always saw Dirty Dancing as the final part of the dance film craze that started with Flashdance and moved to Footloose.

The story for Dirty Dancing is a rather predictable one.  As with all coming of age stories, you have a naive character (the movie opens up with a reflective voiceover monologue that reveals time has passed) and by the end, her world is opened up.  The movie has classic moments of misunderstanding and a breakdown of the perfect relationship between Baby and her father.  With a predictable story, the movie needed another catch, and it found one in the hot coupling of Swayze and Grey.


Listen Pops, Nobody puts Baby in the corner…or next to this pillar thing

Grey and Swayze already appeared in Red Dawn together and allegedly had a bit of a rocky relationship.  It doesn’t really show on screen and the movie’s casting was smart.  Jennifer Grey is the daughter of the great stage dancer and performer Joel Grey and has that extremely average “every-girl” appearance…particularly due to her unique nose which she gave up with plastic surgery in the ’90s.  If Grey could land Swayze other girls had a chance.  Swayze also is the perfect specimen for admiring women.  He spends a lot of the movie shirtless and is extremely fit…he does struggle a bit with the acting at points (he also wasn’t the first choice…Billy Zane allegedly was considered).

Grey and Swayze are backed by a nice cast, but most of the characters come off as jerks.  You have the judgmental father Jerry Orbach, the surprising absent mom (Kelly Bishop replaced Lynne Lipton at the last minute), and the dim sister.  Seinfeld alum Wayne Knight is noticeable in a small early role as an activities director but he and most of the staff of the resort aren’t fleshed out.


I’m flying!!!

The movie does have a nice high production value.  The movie taps into its soundtrack and looks great.  The setting (mostly shot in North Carolina and Virginia) does have a nice retro-classic feel.  The movie also blends old music and modern music in a way that it doesn’t make it feel extremely out of place.

Dirty Dancing is a “chick flick” but does have some general merit for all viewers.  I am always interested in movies that capture the collective consciousness even if I don’t like them.  Dirty Dancing is one of the more entertaining films in this category.  The movie did result in a short spin-off TV series (starring Melora Hardin and Patrick Cassidy as Baby and Johnny) and a stage play.  Dirty Dancing did have an unrelated sequel in 2004 called Dirty Dancing:  Havana Nights (in which did have a cameo by Patrick Swayze).

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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