Other than the die-hard fans of the film, who find meaning and depth in every twirl and grind, most people came away Dirty Dancing with two thoughts:
1. Jennifer Grey is kind of hot.
2. Nobody puts baby in the corner.
The movie is a cultural touchstone for some, a late-1980s look at the early-1960s, while others remember it solely because TNT decided to show it for 24 hours straight.
There is a third group, of course. The believers. The ones who had, literally,
the time of their lives watching Patrick Swayze dance his way into their hearts. Those poor souls are the ones who have bought countless editions of the film
on DVD. The base disc. The Collector's Edition. The Ultimate
Edition. And if you read their comments on those discs, you can
understand why so many hailed the release of Dirty Dancing: The 20th
Anniversary Edition with equal parts excitement and trepidation.
Would it finally be what they had so long craved - a comprehensive, in-depth,
exaustive collection that not only presents the movie but all the detritus
that could be gathered - or would it be just another studio money grab? Well, this is a good-looking movie. And the sound is crisp with dialogue and music acting in concert, not overwhelming or eliminating each other. But that's not reason enough for buying a brand-new set. This is: Extras. Dear, sweet God, the extras. They are everywhere - by which I mean the second disc - and run a wide gamut.
Here's what you get when you buy the set:
Man alive, I can't remember the last time I saw the beginning of this movie. Like "Enemy of the State" and "Diggstown" - movies I like enough to watch, but not enough to seek out - when "Dirty Dancing" comes on I watch it from
wherever it's at. Because of that, I was a little surprised to find out how
bitingly sarcastic and insidious the start of this movie is.
Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is a daddy's girl who wishes for
nothing more than to find a man like her dear, old papa Dr. Houseman (Jerry
Orbach). While her petulant older sister is looking to marry rich and get
away from the family, Baby obviously loves her parents and isn't afraid
to be their little girl a little longer before joining the Peace Corps. The changes come slowly when the family arrives at a summer resort in the
Catskills, guests of the owner, a patient who has pestered Dr. Houseman
to visit. Like all rich people, it turns out this guy is a jackass and has
groomed his family to be jackasses as well.
Baby is quickly set upon by the owner's son, a short man with no
sense of humility. Her interest comes only because she doesn't think she
deserves more. Her sister is the pretty one, so Baby should take what she
can get. She quickly finds out that most of the romance at the resort is manufactured
when she walks past a meeting of the waiters, hand-picked from Ivy League
schools, who are instructed to flirt with all the girls, even the homely ones.
Baby would likely spend the summer being bored by her diminutive beau if she
hadn't stumbled past a shack playing "modern" rock music. After helping carry
some watermelons, she finds herself inside a party full of "the help," bumping
and grinding. She is immediately smitten with Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze),
the blonde, buff dance instructor. A misunderstanding about the father of another instructor's unborn child
puts Baby and Johnny at odds, but she works hard to redeem herself - first by
getting money for the girl's illegal abortion, then by filling in for her
as Johnny's dance partner.
Enter the montage. The pair dance and fight and dance and fight and dance
and...fall in love. It's a pretty well-done montage with Grey's character
showing real progress. Things look bright until Penny comes back from her
abortion all torn up and needs medical help. Baby is forced
to go to her father for help, which he does, but when he finds out
his daughter spent his money on an illegal abortion, he forbids her from
seeing Johnny and his friends. She sneaks out to see him, mostly to apologize for what her father said,
but they end up sleeping together and setting in motion more catastrophic
events, culminating with Johnny being fired for a crime he didn't commit.
I'll be honest with you. At the halfway point, the story gets much less
interesting while the dance scenes get better and better. Who can forget the
romantic scene inside Johnny's studio to the tune of "Love is Strange" by
Mickey and Sylvia?
What appeals to so many in this film isn't great acting - Det. Lenny Brisco is
OK as a caring father, Wayne Knight is believable as the world's most annoying
comedian - it's the marriage of music and dance.
If you like a love story or some well choreographed dancing, then you probably
like this movie. And it's not like you haven't seen it already. I mean, it's
"Dirty Dancing." Everybody has seen it.
This 1.85:1 widescreen picture is crisp and clean like a gin and tonic. The
colors are bright, the grain is cleaned off the print and I didn't see any
shifting during scene changes or artifacts. Seriously, I don't know what the
previous editions looked like, but this one is plenty pretty.
Here be an embarressment of riches. What kind of sound do you want? The 6.1
DTS-ES Digital Discrete surround and the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX both do
the job well. Music comes at you from all angles and there's no trouble
hearing anybody. For those with a lesser system, the 2.0 Dolby Digital isn't
as nice in picking apart the layers of sound, but it's not unpleasant to hear.
While watching the movie, you can hear writer Eleanor Bergstein's commentary
(not my cup of tea, but I'm sure it contains those nuggets "Dirty Dancing"
afficianados crave), watch the "Trivia Track," which gives tidbits of info on
casting choices among other things, or enjoy English and Spanish subtitles.
The commentary is reduced from previous editions, which also included set,
costume and dance designers in the discussion.
The second disc is where the real in-depth stuff starts. Not available on
other discs are the tribute to Jerry Orbach, who died since "The Ultimate
Edition" release, "Dirty Dancing" with Patrick Swayze - a longer interview
about his character, the making of the movie and how the movie changed him -
and the deleted, alternate and extended scenes.
"The Classic Story on Stage" is also new, but it's half interview with
Bergstein about the Dirty Dancing musical and half infomercial for the
Some of it is retread from previous editions. Screen tests, interviews with
the stars, a tribute to Emile Ardolino and music videos are included.
The one big disappointment is the insert. Rather than a nice color chapter
list or even a pamphlet about the movie, it's nothing but an order form for
anyone who wants more movie memorabilia.
In Other Words...
If you don't have it already, Dirty Dancing: The 20th Anniversary
Edition is a pretty thorough package for those who love the movie and
want to watch it at their discretion. It doesn't include everything available
on previous special editions, but it makes up for it with new material. For
the quality of the print and sound alone, this one is good, but with so many
extras, it is Highly Recommended - unless you hate the movie,
in which case, just buy it for the woman in your life who inevitably loves it.