Skip to main content

Obsessions: We'll always have 'Havana Nights'

By Stephanie Goldberg, CNN
"Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" even featured its own less challenging version of Swayze and Grey's dramatic lift.
"Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" even featured its own less challenging version of Swayze and Grey's dramatic lift.
  • I have a confession to a make: I enjoyed 2004's "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights"
  • With a budget of $25 million, "Havana Nights" only grossed about $14 million nationally
  • The remake will be directed by the original film's choreographer, Kenny Ortega

(CNN) -- I believe in remakes. "Father of the Bride," "Ocean's Eleven," "The Parent Trap"... Each version was a classic in its own time.

And despite the fact that the recently announced "Dirty Dancing" remake -- most likely -- won't hold a candle to the 1987 dance flick, I'm optimistic.

With all the buzz surrounding "Dirty Dancing" 2.0, which will be directed by the original film's choreographer, Kenny Ortega, it's easy to forget that this isn't the first reboot. In 2004, "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" was released.

And this brings me to my confession: I really liked "Havana Nights."

Before you skip down to the comments section and unleash fury, I am aware that "Havana Nights" isn't nearly as good as "Dirty Dancing." Diego Luna and Romola Garai don't even look like Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey's understudies.

But if you take it for what it is, a dance movie with its own spin on a classic storyline, it's really an enjoyable flick. Plus, there are some pretty funny scenes -- whether or not they were intended to be comical, I'm not sure.

"Havana Nights" worked because it didn't try to introduce us to a new Baby, a new Johnny Castle, or even a present day Catskills resort. It took what I have officially dubbed the "Friends With Benefits" approach: Same story, different movie.

"Friends With Benefits," starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, hit theaters just six months after Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher's "No Strings Attached." Both films featured two friends attempting to engage in a casual, sexual relationship.

Of course, in "Dirty Dancing's" case, 17 years went by before another film adopted the plotline.

Like the original, "Havana Nights" is a period piece, of sorts -- it takes place during the late 1950s during the Cuban Revolution. At the beginning of the film, Katey (Garai) has just moved to Cuba with her family. There she meets Javier (Luna), a bus boy and talented Latin dancer who teaches her some moves.

Just replace a few Kellerman's performances with a Latin ballroom competition, and substitute "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" for Mya's "Do You Only Wanna Dance" and you can probably fill in the rest.

Also, I'm a sucker for movie montages. There's nothing better than watching a series of events play out while simultaneously listening to a catchy track. In the case of "Havana Nights," about halfway through the movie, scenes of the couple rehearsing their moves on a rooftop and at the beach are backed by Wyclef Jean and Claudette Ortiz's "Dance Like This."

They even have their own, less challenging, version of Swayze and Grey's dramatic lift.

Here's my point: The movie wasn't trying to be the next "Dirty Dancing." It was simply recycling a winning formula.

In the interest of full disclosure, "Havana Nights" absolutely bombed at the box office. With a budget of $25 million, it only grossed about $14 million nationally.

It could have been the relatively unknown cast. Though, Luna had a budding career in Latin America before channeling Swayze in 2004. John Slattery and Sela Ward appeared in the film as Katey's conservative parents.

Maybe people felt protective of "Dirty Dancing," and chose to rebel against a film that dared to mooch off its name.

With so many fans already up in arms over Kenny Ortega's impending update -- countless groups opposing the flick have popped up on Facebook this week -- it will be interesting to see if people make it to the box office.

I know I will.