Can you do the twist? How about the mashed potato? Dirty Dancing serves up the classic steps with a nice variety of body rolls on the side. It’s that age when kids are swapping the fox trot for dry humping in the dark, and parental supervision is as tight as an unlocked swinging door. There was once a magical time when families would pack up the station wagon to spend a few weeks every summer at the local resort. Fun times were had under that gazaybow and in the croquette field. So strap on the pantyhose and nude, sheer-gloss lipstick because we’re in for the absolute time of our lives.
She was Daddy’s girl, wanted to join the peace core, and didn’t care to notice that everyone called her Baby. At the tail end of summer, Baby (Jennifer Grey) just wanted to spend some quality time at the resort. Enter Johnny (Patrick Swayze) with biceps that say the beach is that way, and hips that just don’t lie. Baby follows her dreamboat to a behind-the-scenes tour of the resort, mingling with the staff, the dancers, the sweat, and the two-sided records. But all isn’t as wild and rambunctious as it seems. When drama hits the lead dancer, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), Baby volunteers to lend a hand and take her place at the super important, just can’t miss it, no-one-else-can-replace-her show. With a few lessons from Johnny, Baby learns the moves and dons the dress but neglects to tell her father about her extra-curricular activities. What would Daddy think if he knew his little Baby was not only mingling with the staff but unashamedly assisting the servants?
As much as she loves her father, Baby just don’t give a damn about his expectations, and it’s easy to see why. Johnny glides in with his ballroom shoes and high waisted pants, snapping his fiery feet all over that floor and giving Baby the hungry eyes. They don’t call it Dirty Dancing because it’s good, clean, family fun. Like any human, Baby needs to eat/sleep/breathe, but the dance teacher’s tight, monochromatic T’s become quite the distraction. As if that weren’t enough conflict for one movie, we’re also struggling with Baby’s status as the doctor’s daughter and Johnny being a world class nobody from the streets. He’s the first to blame as soon as something goes awry, and Baby’s gut reaction is to throw Daddy’s money at it. Will Johnny ever gain her father’s respect? Will Baby ever be fully welcomed by the downstairs crew? Or will their relationship sink like Jack and Rose?
The 80’s were the golden age for movies like this. Dirty Dancing is slightly over the top but still confident that it’s the best story since Romeo and Juliette. Dirty Dancing mixes story with sexy dancers rather than trying to mix sexy dancers into a story, Magic Mike-style. Baby struggles to replace a real Rockette with legs as long and flexible as palm trees in just a few days, with no dancing experience to fall back on. She sweats, she stumbles, her little white crop tops get shorter, and she mambos across the resort grounds like someone stuffed electro magnets in her pockets. The struggle is real, but the reward is sweet. Baby learns to stand up for herself, but if that should fail she always has a glistening Johnny to fall back on.
Who needs a bench press when you have a girlfriend with a teetering reputation? Johnny’s gym routine involves just enough cardio to shimmer under the spotlights and a few hours every day of lifting women over his head. It’s a good thing Dirt Dancing takes place in the summer because the only long-sleeved shirt that properly fits Johnny’s pipes is a badass leather jacket. But eye candy or not, Johnny’s got feelings too. Sure Baby’s shoved into a corner behind her family’s reputation, but Johnny suffers at the will of all the cougars in town. This camp may be a family place, but it’s certainly not just for families.
Amidst the sneakers and the sneaking around, Dirty Dancing is a classic girl-meets-boy story. The main-house mambo and the after-hours mashed potato make this movie both fun for the family and the highlight of your next girls’ night. From the insufferably dorky sister to the real troubles of the entertainment staff, Dirty Dancing is funny, sweet, and dramatic. It’s an easy 9/10 classic.