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Emile Ardolino
Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston, Jane Brucker, Kelly Bishop, Lonny Price
Writing Credits:
Eleanor Bergstein

Have The Time Of Your Life.

In the summer of 1963, innocent 17-year-old Baby (Jennifer Grey) vacations with her parents at a Catskill's resort. One evening she is drawn to the staff quarters by stirring music. There she meets Johnny (Swayze), the hotel dance instructor, who is as experienced as Baby is naive. Baby soon becomes Johnny's pupil in dance and in love.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$3.900 million on 975 screens.
Domestic Gross
$63.892 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English DTS 6.1 ES
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 12/9/2003

Disc One
• Jennifer Grey DVD Introduction
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Co-producer Eleanor Bergstein
• Audio Commentary with Choreographer Kenny Ortega, Assistant Choreographer and Actress Miranda Garrison, Director of Photography Jeff Jur, Costume Designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and Production Designer David Chapman
• Trivia Track
Disc Two
• Jennifer Grey Screen Test
• Jennifer Grey Interview
• Miranda Garrison Interview
• Kenny Ortega Interview
• Eleanor Bergstein Interview
• Emile Ardolino Tribute
• “Dirty Dancing Live In Concert”
• Three Music Videos
• Trailers
• Easter Eggs

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Dirty Dancing: Ultimate Edition (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 23, 2003)

With Artisan’s new “Ultimate Edition” of 1987’s Dirty Dancing, we get to revisit the Eighties and the careers launched and resuscitated by this left field hit. Actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey became stars after this flick.

Dancing also temporarily brought some old performers back to the pop charts. Righteous Brother Bill Medley scored a hit single with Jennifer Warnes on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”. (Ironically, Warnes helped kickstart Joe Cocker’s career with “Up Where We Belong” from 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman.) Eric Carmen also notched a success with “Hungry Eyes”, his most popular song since “All By Myself”. Such was the glow of Dancing that even non-crooner Swayze produced a hit with “She’s Like the Wind”, and old chestnuts like the Contours’ “Do You Love Me” got attention from a new generation.

Dancing itself remains popular enough to spawn a much-belated sequel/remake with 2004’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. I’d not seen the original Dancing since 1987, so I was curious to watch it from the perspective of 16 additional years.

Set in the summer of 1963, Dancing shows the Catskills vacation of “Baby” Houseman (Grey) and her family. That group includes her father Jake (Jerry Orbach) plus sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) and mother Marjorie (Kelly Bishop). They settle into their cabin and get into the goofy swing of things with Latin dance classes and other activities.

As Baby explores, she overhears directives from resort owner Max Kellerman (Jack Weston) toward various staff members. He tells the male dance instructors to mambo with the single girls but not to try any hanky-panky. Cocky dancer Johnny (Swayze) openly mocks these directives.

The old folks try to set up Baby with various nice boys, but the future college student and Peace Corps volunteer seems disinterested in them. She sees Johnny with fellow instructor Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) as they tear up the floor, and she becomes intrigued.

After a painfully kitschy comedy magic show, Baby wanders the grounds and comes across the staff quarters, even though she’s not supposed to venture into that territory. She gets into their private party, where she sees some rather suggestive and intimate dancing. This risqué behavior shocks Baby but also stimulates her, especially when she sees Johnny in action. He drags her onto the floor for some private instruction and teaches her not to be so stiff.

With that, Johnny disappears and Baby resumes her normal dull life with her family. While she resists the advances of Kellerman’s dorky but egotistical grandson Neil (Lonnie Price), she remains entranced with Johnny. She manages to involve herself further in his life when she helps him with problems encountered by Penny. When she arranges it so Penny can slip away from work, Baby takes the dancer’s place to make sure in a performance act so her absence doesn’t cause waves.

Naturally, this leads her to spend more one-on-one time with Johnny, who initially seems to dislike Baby. He sees her as a spoiled rich girl and resents her. Inevitably, they get to know each other better and start to develop a romantic relationship.

The rest of Dancing follows that affair and its repercussions. At its heart, the film provides nothing more than a “coming of age” movie. This genre is a dime a dozen, though it seems like most of them concentrate on boys who grow into men. Still, it’s not unusual to find one the focuses on female development, and Dancing falls squarely within the constraints of the form.

Within that spectrum, though, it does pretty well for itself. I didn’t recall feeling impressed with Dancing back in the Eighties, and based on my general cinematic preferences, I entertained few expectations that it’d do much for me now. I can’t claim that the movie made me a fan, but it seems better executed and more compelling than I anticipated.

Much of that stems from Grey’s solid performance as Baby. She takes a stock character and brings real life and depth to the role. She makes Baby’s awakening feel natural and not too forced or abrupt, and she infuses real sexiness into the part. I never found Grey to be a terribly attractive woman, but she comes across as pretty hot here.

Unfortunately, she makes Swayze look like an amateur. He does well with the dancing bits, and he certainly looks good, but he can’t act with any sense of realism. He lacks the natural qualities of Grey and always feels artificial and emotive. Swayze doesn’t ruin the film, but it’d have been more satisfying with a better actor.

A few other negative elements of Dancing exist. For one, I think the movie pours on too much melodrama, and it doesn’t really need those elements. I guess it’s a requirement of this sort of chick flick that we get tension and obstacles to stand in the way of our lovers; that allows their ultimate connection to seem all the more tear-jerking. However, Dancing provides too many of these bits, and they get tiresome after a while.

When Dancing stays true to its period-accurate songs, the music works well. However, it periodically intersperses then-modern tracks into the affair, and those often work poorly. “Hungry Eyes” manages to blend reasonably well, but others seem frightfully jarring and inappropriate. For instance, Merry Clayton’s Pointer Sisters style pop tune “Yes” pops up out of nowhere and totally takes us out of the scene.

Nonetheless, most of the music seems well placed and well chosen, and director Emile Ardolino manages to give the movie a surprisingly low-key tone that suits it. Well, he does this through the first two acts, at least; when the emotional stuff starts to hit the fan in act three, the film lets loose with the tear-stained fireworks. Still, Ardolino keeps the flick reasonably subdued, which provides a relative but fairly pleasant surprise.

Dancing even tosses in some decent wit at times. Wayne Newman offers a nice bit as the obnoxious activity director, but he doesn’t get the flick’s best line. That goes to Brucker as the ignorant Lisa, who states, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the Domino Theory. When Vietnam falls, is China next?” Not only does this gag require some sophistication on the part of the viewer, but also the film tosses it out in a throwaway manner that rewards folks who pay attention. The movie doesn’t make a big deal of it, which allows it to become more satisfying for those who get it.

Other than that sort of small pleasure, Dirty Dancing mostly terribly predictable. Nonetheless, the movie overcomes its genre restrictions via a nice lead performance from Jennifer Grey and a generally low-key tone. It seems somewhat erratic and never becomes a great film, but for what it is, Dancing works pretty well.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Dirty Dancing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That marked a change from the two prior DVDs of the film; apparently both of those lacked anamorphic enhancement. I never saw either, so I can’t comment on the quality of that picture, but the new Dancing provided a surprisingly positive presentation.

Sharpness looked good. Some shots appeared slight soft, but those instances occurred infrequently. Instead, the movie mainly seemed nicely detailed and well defined. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering popped up, and edge enhancement remained minor. To my surprise, Dancing suffered from almost no source defects. The image looked a little grainy at times, but not to an extreme, and other flaws were virtually totally absent.

Colors largely seemed natural and vivid. Some interiors looked a bit murky, especially when colored lights appeared; those shots demonstrated moderately dense tones. Otherwise, the film depicted lively and concise hues. Blacks seemed tight and rich, and shadows mostly came across as detailed and distinctive. Low-light shots appeared well depicted across the board. Overall, Dirty Dancing offered a rather satisfying visual presentation.

Despite the movie’s modest audio origins, the new DVD of Dirty Dancing included both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 mixes. The pair essentially sounded identical. The DTS version came across as a little denser in regard to its bass response, but that wasn’t a major difference. I felt they deserved the same “B” grade and qualified for the same remarks.

Not surprisingly, music dominated the soundfield of Dancing. The songs and score demonstrated reasonably good stereo imaging, though that depended on the source. Some of the older songs came from mono origins, so they either stayed that way or only gently broadened their spread. As for effects, these stayed quite modest in scope. Those elements almost entirely consisted of general environmental bits, with very little that elevated the track above that level. Given the focus of Dancing, though, this restricted range was fine. The surrounds contributed modest reinforcement of the music and effects but didn’t do much more than that.

Audio quality seemed satisfactory for a flick from 1987. Speech was generally natural and concise. Some lines were just a little muddy, but those concerns seemed infrequent and minor, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects played a small role in the proceedings, and sounded fine. They portrayed their elements with acceptable accuracy, though they failed to do anything more than that. Music varied dependent on the source but mostly seemed good. Some of the songs featured a little excessive low-end, but they generally came across as acceptably concise and lively. In the end, the audio of Dirty Dancing showed its age but seemed mostly solid.

This “Ultimate Edition” of Dirty Dancing comes as Artisan’s third DVD release of the film. The first presented a bare bones release, while the “Collector’s Edition” added a pretty substantial roster of extras. The UE seems to include most of those plus a number of new features.

A frightfully useless addition, DVD One opens with a Jennifer Grey Introduction. Here’s what she says in this seven-second clip: “Hi, I’m Jennifer Grey, and welcome to the Dirty Dancing DVD. Hope you enjoy the show!” There – I’ve spared you the need to click on that feature.

More useful, we find two separate audio commentaries on DVD One. A carryover from the prior release, the first comes from writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein, who provides a running, screen-specific piece. And an excellent track it is, as Bergstein goes into a myriad of topics. She discusses autobiographical influences, variations between the script and the movie, casting, locations, music, expectations for the film, anecdotes from the shoot, and many other bits. Bergstein consistently seems chatty and engaging, and she gives us a very personal and lively examination of her experiences. Other than a few minor sags, she offers a very solid commentary.

The second commentary includes remarks from choreographer Kenny Ortega, assistant choreographer and actress Miranda Garrison, director of photography Jeff Jur, costume designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and production designer David Chapman. All sit solo except for Ortega and Garrison, who are together for their parts. One can get a good idea of the subjects covered from the job descriptions. We learn about the dancing, the movie’s cinematography, the clothes, and the movie’s visual look. This comes about with issues like making the dancing look appropriate for the period and the characters, adapting Sixties outfits and maintaining an accurate wardrobe, and marrying the setting with Eighties expectations. The group consistently gets into interesting issues and relates some nice specifics of their work. This track doesn’t seem as compelling as Bergstein’s, but it provides a good examination of the various elements and proves to be a worthwhile listen.

Finally, DVD One presents a trivia track. If you activate this subtitle option, you’ll periodically encounter factoids about the movie’s setting, its actors, and its music, among other general topics. The notes pop up pretty infrequently. Nothing scintillating appears here, and the information remains fairly basic and bland.

Now we head to DVD Two, where we find a mix of elements. Another carryover from the prior Special Edition release, Dirty Dancing Live in Concert provides a 1988 performance from some of the musicians heard on the soundtrack. In this 87-minute and 15-second program, we get numbers from Merry Clayton, the Contours, Eric Carmen, and Bill Medley. They do their songs from the movie as well as work done previously and some tracks from artists not represented at the show.

Dancing diehards might dig this, but otherwise “Concert” will be entertaining mostly to those who like silly Eighties relics. Thrill to Carmen’s poofy poodle haircut! Shriek at the sight of Medley’s mullet! Gasp at all the flouncy dancers and their emoting! Essentially little more than the kind of show you’d see at an amusement park but with more talented singers, “Concert” seems consistently goofy and borders on the absurd much of the time. It was amusing, but I laughed at it, not with it.

Inside the Interviews domain, we find chats with four participants: actor Jennifer Grey (11 minutes, 13 seconds), choreographer Kenny Ortega (15:22), writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein (18:37), and assistant choreographer and actress Miranda Garrison (13:17). All of these provide efficient explorations of various subjects, though they come about in a flat manner due to the simple “talking head” format. Nonetheless, this makes them accentuate the information, and a lot of good notes appear here. Bergstein again proves to be interesting as she offers a rich discussion of details related to the film, and all involved largely avoid repetition of concepts from the commentaries.

Look for an Easter egg in this area. Highlight “Kenny Ortega” and click to the right to access it. The six-minute and 44-second program offers a pretty generic “making of” featurette that includes some short soundbites from Grey, Ortega, Patrick Swayze, Cynthia Rhodes and director Emile Ardolino. Its focus on dance makes it a little more interesting than normal, but not by much.

An intriguing little piece appears with the Jennifer Grey Screen Test. This three-minute and 12-second clip shows her as she runs through a few scenes in a simple setting. She doesn’t seem particularly good here, but it’s interesting to get a look at her audition.

For some notes about the late director, we go to the Emile Ardolino Tribute. In this 13-minute and 29-second program, we see photos and other archival materials with comments from Miranda Garrison, Jennifer Grey, Kenny Ortega, Eleanor Bergstein, and Ardolino’s partner Luis M. Rodriguez Villa. A reflection on the director’s life and career, this provides us with some decent notes about the man. Unsurprisingly, it turns pretty goopy at times, as heavy praise dominates.

A few short pieces round out the DVD. We get the film’s theatrical trailer plus three music videos: Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, and Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind”. The Carmen clip makes the singer look like a Robert Palmer wannabe and seems pretty laughable today. “Life” isn’t very good, but at least it’s not a campy dud like “Eyes” and it doesn’t seem too dated. “Wind” falls somewhere between those two. It’s not as ridiculous as “Eyes”, but it does appear silly to watch Swayze seriously emote his way through the terrible ballad.

An Easter egg appears here. Click to the left of the “Life” video and you’ll get a 1980s 125-second featurette about a retro club then owned by Medley and the movie’s music.

More ads finish out the collection. In the Trailer Gallery we get promos for Standing In the Shadows of Motown plus other Artisan special edition DVDs. Finally, the disc presents a sneak peek of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. The 123-second clip does nothing more that tout the “re-imagining” with happy-talk from actors Romola Garai and Diego Luna. It’s a pretty generic ad.

One more Easter egg appears on the main menu. Click to the right of “Interviews” and then hit enter. You’ll get five minutes and 17 seconds of dance rehearsal footage and other behind the scenes shots of the movie’s finale. Some may enjoy this due to the presence of a shirtless Swayze.

I didn’t expect much from a chick flick like Dirty Dancing, but it actually works fairly well. The movie proves to have some intelligence and heart, and while it gets too melodramatic, it still delivers a reasonably solid effort. The DVD presents pretty positive picture and audio with a nice roster of extras. With a list price of less than $20, fans should give this “Ultimate Edition” a look, even if they already own prior DVDs of Dancing.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4655 Stars Number of Votes: 58
3 3:
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