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Dirty Dancing is one of those films that I never wanted or intended to see. I mean, I'm usually pretty open minded when it comes to taking in whatever any given genre has to offer, but chick flicks are where I tend draw the line. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but most of the chick flicks out there are prime examples of cookie-cutter Hollywood at its worst, playing it safe and rarely breaking its pre-defined mold. "Oh, we fell in love with each other under false pretenses, so we broke up. Now we're absolutely miserable because we finally realize how special our love was. That's OK though, because after drawing the drama out for half a movie, we're going to dramatically rush into each other's arms in slow motion and embrace until the end credits roll!" Give me a break. If I were a woman, I think I'd actually be a little insulted that Hollywood believes the female demographic is stupid enough to keep swallowing this regurgitated crap. However, Dirty Dancing just so happens to be my wife's favorite movie, which means after years of batting her beautiful eyes and begging me to watch it with her because she thought I'd like it, I really had no other choice but to sacrifice a couple of hours and get it over with... annnnnd two hours later I ended up admitting to her, "I was wrong. It was actually pretty good!"
What didn't leave a lasting impression on me was the video quality. At the time, we owned the 20th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, and it had poor contrast, unnatural skin tones and visible stair stepping. Lions Gate had released a remastered Limited Keepsake Edition, but it came in a bulky box (two inches thick and taller than your typical Blu-ray case) with a bunch of unnecessary crap, so we decided to wait for a release that came with the movie and nothing else. Now here we are some years later, and Lions Gate is releasing the 30th Anniversary Edition of the film.
If you're as unfamiliar with the film as I was a few years back, Dirty Dancing is the very embodiment of the chick flick clichés I had previously mentioned, at least on paper.
A girl that's forced to mingle with high society snobs is dragged to a luxury resort with her family for the summer. Listlessly, she goes through the motions and observes human nature at its worst, as people with an exuberant amount of money showcase how little they know about humanity through dishonesty, disloyalty, adultery, as well as snubbing the very staff that do their best to provide the guests with the time of their life. So, of course, this girl takes great interest in the only people at the resort who seem real and down to earth, and eventually develops a crush on the dance instructor. After attending an after-hours staff party and taking up an interest in what he calls 'dirty dancing', that crush eventually blossoms into love, but as with most chick flicks, that love comes with a few complications. The staff members are strictly forbidden to have relationships with the guests, she has to hide the relationship from her father - who has commanded her to stay away from the dance instructor, no less - and the fact that these lovers are from two different worlds separated by financial class eventually comes between them. All hope is predictably lost when the man she loves decides to move on without her, but we can see his inevitable return from a mile away. Anything for a happy ending, right?
That's Dirty Dancing in a nutshell, and yes, it does sound like the typical, mindless genre cliché that I would loathe, ten times over in fact. Again though, I don't let my bias get in the way when I see a film that's truly special, so you can believe me when I say that nearly everything about this film is appreciable. Whereas most chick flicks feel hollow and empty because they bring nothing substantial to the table, Dirty Dancing feels like a story worth telling because throughout most of the picture, the love between Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) is mostly tested by the intolerance of others, and not because one had deceived the other by pretending to be something they were not. No, these two individuals were attracted to each other because of their differences, and furthermore, they let nothing stand in the way of their love. It doesn't matter who frowned on their relationship or who said, "You can't see that person ever again." They would sneak nights alone together, hide their relationship from everyone and be happy the entire time to do so. All that mattered in the world were those moments that they were together, and when push came to shove, they revealed their ongoing relationship to everyone just to protect one another. It's this kind of a script that makes me believe the love I'm seeing on-screen is real, and not just a product of Hollywood forcing another garbage film on us.
What also makes this film work so well are its numerous moralistic lessons about humanity vs. how society often perceives said humanity. And last, but certainly not least, the film's fantastic soundtrack. Yes, it sounds a little dated, but the featured songs are just as powerful within the context of this film today as they ever were. I'm not a fan of 80's music by any means, but the soundtrack really is woven throughout the story flawlessly.
That being said, Dirty Dancing isn't a flawless film by any means. I know I'm probably going to draw some hate for saying this, but Patrick Swayze's performance really didn't do much for me. He was passionate and had seemingly fallen head over heels for Baby girl well enough through his dance routines, but when simply acting, came off like a stage actor that was playing things over the top. I suppose I can't complain much, though, because this film really wouldn't have worked without chemistry he and Jennifer Grey brought to the screen. For example, Travolta was well known for his dancing in Saturday Night Fever and Grease at the time, but if he played the lead in Dirty Dancing, it would have been a completely different film, and not for the better. The only person I can really tip my hat to, in regards to both acting and dancing, would be Jennifer Grey. She displays nearly every emotion there is throughout the film's entirety and she showcases them all naturally. It doesn't matter if she's playing the rich kid that's bored with life, a teenager in love, a woman with a broken heart, or stepping out of her comfort zone with determination to get what she wants... Jennifer Grey is where most of the real heart and soul of this film comes from. Well, outside of the dancing that's meant to pull our heartstrings, of course.
Nitpicks aside, Dirty Dancing truly deserves its ranks amongst the 'classics', and I assume that will never falter as time goes on.
I know a lot of people were hoping the 30th Anniversary Edition would feature a 4K remaster, but no such luck. This appears to be the same transfer from the Limited Keepsake and Dirty Dancing Collection releases.
Encoded at 1080p via AVC (1.78:1), this is still as good as this movie is likely to look until the studio gets serious and decides to rework this film for a physical 4K Blu-ray release. While Dirty Dancing consistently fails to ‘wow', that's due to the source elements appearing naturally soft and hazy, and in regards to the format providing us the most accurate representation of a film possible, I'm not going to fault the source for looking the way it does.
That said, the contrast is quite nice. Daytime scenes don't look washed out or lifeless and night scenes don't exhibit black crush. Colors look much more natural here than they did on the original Dirty Dancing Blu-ray from 2007, and that's including skin tones as well. Detail is decent enough, but clarity still suffers due to the source. There's also no digital anomalies to complain about. I watch on a 50" Samsung (1080p) from about 6 feet away, and this looks very much like film, and for that I'm grateful. For anyone still holding on to the original 20th Anniversary Blu-ray from 2007, now is the time to upgrade… unless, of course, you see yourself transitioning to physical 4K media in the not too distant future.
I guess I'm not surprised, Dirty Dancing isn't exactly a powerhouse. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, just that the source, much like the video, leaves some to be desired. The musical numbers lack the punch or soundstage they truly deserve, and the dialogue still has a slightly smoky vibe to it, meaning it isn't as crisp or concise as what we're used to hearing on Blu-ray. The entire presentation is, for the most part, front heavy… and that's a bummer. Does it sound better than the old 2007 release? Sure, but not substantially so.
-Commentary with Writer/Co-Producer Eleanor Bergstein
-Commentary with Kenny Ortega, Miranda Goldstein, Jeff Jur, Hilary Rosenfeld and David Chapman
-Happy Birthday Dirty Dancing - This is a new, half hour featurette which acts as a retrospective, and even a love letter to Dirty Dancing and the impact it's had on audiences over the years. Features newly recorded interview footage with actress Jennifer Grey, screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, and more. Even some cast from the upcoming Dirty Dancing film (reboot) are involved.
-Patrick Swayze: In His Own Words - Another new featurette chiming in at 13 minutes, and brings unused, but very interesting Swayze interview footage from 2006.
-Eleanor Bergstein - Thoughts On A Lifetime Of Dirty Dancing - The shortest of the new featurettes on this release at only 7 minutes, Eleanor Bergstein discusses the film's legacy, as well as its transition to a stage musical.
-Patrick Swayze Uncut - 14 additional minutes of unused Swayze interview footage from 2006. This time, however, it's Swayze talking more about his life than that of his work on the film.
-Dirty Dancing - The Phenomenon
-The Rhythm Of The Dancing
-Music Video: Hungry Eyes
-Music Video: She's Like The Wind
-Music Video: (I've Had) The Time Of My Life
-Cast Interviews with Jennifer Grey, Eleanor Bergstein, Miranda Garrison and Kenny Ortega
-Deleted Scenes / Extended Scenes / Alternate Scenes
-Screen Tests & Outtakes
People who have been waiting for a substantial video upgrade are going to be disappointing with the 30th Anniversary Edition, as it sports the same transfer as was provided on the Limited Keepsake and Dirty Dancing Collection releases. That said, for everyone else, you get this classic film with an explosive amount of extras that are sure to keep you busy for hours on end. The original Swayze starring flick is a classic and still makes hearts melt around the world day in, and day out. As a chick flick cliché hating reviewer, I think my love for the original should say it all, especially considering I only saw this for the first time a few years ago. Highly Recommended.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!