WARNING: If Dirty Dancing is your favorite movie of all time, please skip to the technical portion below. You won't like this first part at all.
Dirty Dancing is a hormonally-charged movie that shoehorns 1980s culture and fashion into a 1960s setting. There's lots of dancing, grinding, music, more dancing, more grinding, more music, and even some family dysfunction thrown in for good measure. With that said, it's one of the very few movies that makes me want to thump my head against the nearest wall until sweet, sweet unconsciousness takes me away to a happier place.
For years, I had no idea what all the fuss was about (and I still have no idea). This was a hugely successful movie, and remains a perennial favorite for a lot of people out there. It's actually pretty disturbing to me that so many people could see Dirty Dancing as anything other than the fluffy, irritating mess that it is. Still, tons of people love this movie. People that vote, and will one day bring new life into this world. They cook your food, they haul your trash, they connect your calls, they drive your ambulances. They guard you while you sleep. While I hate to willingly upset such a vocal majority, I'm not going to lie to myself: this movie stinks, plain and simple. Don't get me wrong, it's not harmful or fatal...it's just more like a terrible itch that you just can't scratch. This itch is not going away by itself, and there's not much you can do about it.
The main reason I don't like Dirty Dancing is pretty simple, really: I can't identify with any of the characters, so therefore I can't really care what happens to them. There's a spoiled rich girl ("Baby", played by Jennifer Grey), a tough-guy outsider (Johnny, played by Patrick Swayze), and...well...there's not many other characters that get much attention, but that's obvious enough by the cover art. Anyway, they fall in love and all that. The characters are one-dimensional, the plot is predictable, and the movie's not entertaining enough to get away with it. The acting is mediocre at best (at times, it's pretty laughable), and nothing about the story is capable of commanding any real attention. On top of all this, there's plenty of music that hasn't aged well, and outfits that have aged even worse.
Oh, but wait! There's a lot of sweaty dancing, and steamy goings-on, or so the actors would have you believe. In truth, there's not much chemistry between Baby and Johnny, and the "dirty dancing" itself is no longer shocking or explicit...it's more like the cut scenes of Blind Date, only with slightly better choreography. In short, Dirty Dancing belongs on basic cable, with a terrible time slot.
Petty ranting aside, there's still a large chunk of the viewing public that really, really enjoys Dirty Dancing. It's obvious that they're seeing something I'm not, but I'm sure one thing can be said: if you haven't seen this movie before, I doubt you'll enjoy it now. Most die-hard fans have loved this from the very beginning...they can quote lines and perform the dance routines on command. It's become something like a tradition in their lives: like cleaning out the ol' septic tank, or visiting the dentist. Those who jump on the wagon now will likely be as confused as a first-time visitor to a Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screening. In any case, the fans have spoken. They have spoken, and Artisan Home Entertainment has answered their call, for like the third time now.
Ladies and gentleman...Dirty Dancing: The Ultimate Edition.
I weep for America.
Quality Control Department
The video on this disc is average at best. As said before, this is the third time Dirty Dancing has been released on DVD, but you wouldn't know it by the picture quality. Although it didn't have much of a budget (which should always be taken into account), the image quality could have been better. Colors seem patchy in certain areas, jumping between too bright and too faded...it's really hard to explain, but you'll know what I mean if you see it. Still, there's a few things about this transfer that keep it above water: this is most likely the best version available, for starters. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first anamorphic transfer that the movie has received, so that's an upgrade. Dirty Dancing is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and should satisfy any fan of the movie, all things considered. While I think Artisan could have done a better job in this regard, the video quality just barely squeaks by.
Hey, even though I hated the movie, I have to admit that the soundtrack came through loud and clear. Fans can choose from three different audio options: 2.0 Surround, 5.1 Surround EX, and even a DTS 6.1 mix(!). Even though they need to seriously get their priorities in order, Artisan did a good job in the audio department. The DTS mix sounds good, if not a little forced, but I'd imagine they could only do so much with the original elements. Three choices of audio, and all of them are pretty decent. This is a good sounding disc, no matter what your opinion of the movie is.
There's a lot of stuff on this 2-disc release, but it's as light and fluffy as the movie itself. The bottom line here: there's quanitity here, but not a lot of quality. NOTE: Some of these extras were previously available on earlier versions, but there's a few new things thrown in.
Disc One holds two audio commentaries and an Introduction by Jennifer Grey (which lasts like 7 seconds, seriously). The first commentary features writer Eleanor Bergstein, and the second one is more of a technical commentary (production designers, choreographers, etc.). The first track wasn't too bad from what I heard, but the second wasn't interesting at all. While die-hard fans might want to give it a listen, I couldn't really get into the making of a movie I didn't like.
Disc Two contains a seemingly long list of extras, but the balloon pops pretty quickly on this one. The longest extra is a 90-minute performance of Dirty Dancing: Live In Concert, but I dare you to sit through it all. It's pretty ridiculous, and does little to salvage what little bit of dignity this film has left in my book. Equally embarrassing are a few Music Videos, which take soft lighting and cheesy 80s pop to a whole new level. There's also some new Interviews with Bergstein and some of the production team, but they look and sound very worn. A Tribute to Emile Ardolino (the late director) sounds touching, but doesn't really amount to much more than filler. Further down the spiral is Jennifer Grey's Screen Test, which shows the actress hamming it up in front of the camera. There's also a few Trailers, including an advertisement for Artisan Special Edition DVDs (for when Ultimate Editions just don't cut it?). By far though, the most frightening extra is a promotion for Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, the forthcoming sequel. Mark your calendars, or don't.
There's also a few Easter Eggs hidden, including a Trivia Track on Disc One, and a very weird Advertisement on Disc Two (I think it's for the movie...?). All in all, there's a lot on paper here, but it doesn't really amount to much of anything in the long run.
Menu design and presentation:
The menus were well-done. They're basically a series of photo collages from the movie itself, with the appropriate music blaring in the background. The navigation icon was sort of strange, though...it appeared to be an animated graphic of two people dancing. This may have sounded cool on paper, but seems a little overdone. Sub-menus are mostly static, and feature collages from the movie. Navigation is plain and simple, but seems a little sluggish on certain occasions. As for the packaging itself: while I don't have it on hand, I've liked the look of previous Ultimate Editions, and the trend will most likely continue with this one. Not a bad overall presentation.
Should anything else have been included?
Well, I'd have liked a barf bag, but I'll try to remain objective here. First of all, this is the third try by Artisan, and it still doesn't seem like a definitive release. There's not much participation from the cast, who are most notably lacking in the commentary department. Don't get me started on that Introduction by Jennifer Grey on Disc One...it's a joke. Like the other extras, it just seems like extra padding, and doesn't really add any significant value to this new version. Still, I really think that this type of movie could never really have a "definitive edition" anyway...this movie is 100% fluff, so it's hard to imagine any substantial extras.
If you love Dirty Dancing with all your heart, that's your business. I didn't like it in the least, but this DVD is still an improvement over the other two versions. The new audio is worth a listen, and a few new extras (combined with a very reasonable price) should please the fans. Still, Artisan should be ashamed of themselves...they're guilty of re-hashing DVDs way more times than necessary (Terminator 2, anyone?), and this is no exception. Even so, if you're a fan of this movie and don't own it yet, this is the version to get. If you have an earlier version, I'd only recommend an upgrade if you find it for a good price. As for me, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, so I'll risk my life and upset the considerable fan base with a big, fat Skip It. Sorry, better luck next summer.
Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.