Dirty Dancing Review

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In the summer of 1963, Baby goes to a mountain holiday resort with her parents and sister. There, she meets dance teacher Johnny Castle, who teaches her how to move, and with whom she falls in love. But things are never quite that simple…


Dirty Dancing's standing as one of the '80s most memorable teen movies is due as much to the phenomenon than the film itself. Virtually every twenty-something woman in the modern world watched it as a pre-teen (drawn in by that slightly naughty title) and was won over by the film's sweet-but-not-schmaltzy vision of first love.

Then, of course, there are the many otherwise normal people out there who can recite the entire script, sing all the songs and have watched the film an unhealthy number of times. But the film's appeal isn't just down to the hype that surrounds it.

The story of the girl (Jennifer Grey) who gets lessons in dance – and lurve – amounts to little more than feel-good fluff. But both leads give it their best shot, with Swayze on fine hip-swinging form and Grey acting and actually looking like Jane Average, rather than a supermodel in a pair of glasses.

And then there's that cheesy yet perfect dialogue. "No one puts Baby in the corner"; "I carried a watermelon?"; "You're wild!" - it ain't Shakespeare, but thanks to a strange sort of alchemy, it goes through so-bad-it's-good territory and back out into the clear waters of genius.

But perhaps the film's real staying power comes from the fact that, while everyone remembers the dancing and the (many) comic moments, there are touches of real darkness here too - racism, backstreet abortions, infidelity. It's that dark background that allows the love story to shine more brightly, and provides that huge emotional high when the dancing begins.

The fact that it spawned one of the biggest-selling soundtracks ever (yes, people paid good money to own something featuring Patrick Swayze singing), a sell-out concert tour, a (lesser) sequel and a stage musical shows how people have taken it to their hearts.

Endlessly quotable, strangely fascinating and immensely charming, there's a reason that this retains an evergreen appeal. And it takes a hard heart not to grin at the final, euphoric dance number.