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 V.13 No.9 | February 26 - March 3, 2004 

Film Review

Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights

Havana Nights Has It All—Revolution, Deceit, Love—But Most Of All It Has Dancing

Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights

Directed by Guy Ferland

Cast: Diego Luna, Ramola Garai, Sela Ward and John Slattery

Dirty Dancing, the original, is a movie that sticks out in many girls' minds as one of the most amazing love stories of the '80s. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey's charisma took our breath away, and left us wondering if we would ever find passion like theirs. As the prequel to the original, Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights, strives to recreate the original movie's intensity, while making Cuban politics one of the main focuses, right behind love and, of course, the love of dance.

American-born and -raised Katie (Ramola Garai) moves with her well-to-do family to 1958 Havana right before the revolution and the shift of power from Batista to Castro, when all Americans were sent packing. The 17-year-old girl is out of place with her straight-laced clothes, superior intelligence and sensitivity towards those less fortunate. As the daughter of parents (played by Sela Ward and John Slattery) who danced professionally in the past, Katie harbors an inner love of dance—ballroom dance—that never amounts to anything more than the occasional dance with her father and practicing in front of her bedroom mirror. That is until she meets Havana local, Javier (Diego Luna, Y Tu Mama Tambien), who sweeps her off her feet with his hot, sweaty, sexy moves.

Katie becomes enchanted with the destitute Cuban native and his foreign ways, though her socialite parents do their best to set her up with the rich son of an American business owner. The rich kid turns out to be a jerk who can't control his hands, and Katie runs to Javier for comfort and companionship. The more time she spends with him the more she learns about his family, country and driving desire to see his people be free.

What starts as a hobby for Katie, learning Cuban dance becomes a necessity when a Cuban Ballroom dance contest is announced. First prize is $5,000 and the chance to move to America. The deeper Katie's feeling for Javier get, the more she is determined to win the contest and help his family break free from the chains of poverty and government control. It takes a lot of work and patience, but Javier eventually teaches the timid girl to break out of her shell, and that dance is “about being exactly who you want to be in that moment.” She, on the other hand, teaches him the ins and outs of the structure of formal dance.

Katie and Javier take to the dance floor in the preliminary round of the competition, and it is here that her parents finally see first hand that their innocent daughter has been “corrupted” by a wild dancer, and their anger drives Katie even further into the open arms of her first true love. Little does anyone know that revolution is on its way, and that circumstances beyond anyone's control will separate the young couple forever.

Fans of the first movie will be happy to see that Swayze, who still has dance coursing through his veins, makes a cameo appearance in Havana Nights as the helpful and compassionate dance instructor. Just as his character, Johnny, helped Baby strive to be the best dancer she could be 17 years ago, he does the same with Katie in 2004. Fans may also recognize a number of familiar scenes that are basically the same in both flicks: there's a dancing in water scene, a practicing sexy moves scene where the leading ladies can't do them without laughing hysterically and a handful of others.

Havana Nights, directed by Guy Ferland (Bang, Bang, You're Dead), almost works, but with so many sub-plots running rampant, never fully settles on a lead plot, which makes it difficult to ever really know the lead characters as well as we once knew Johnny and Baby. Thankfully, a fantastic soundtrack helps suck you into the feel of Havana and the people who live there.

Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights makes it obvious that Cuban dance is full of passion, and that if a hot guy and hot girl try to teach each other to dance, someone is going to have the time of their life, and get down and dirty, and not just on the dance floor.

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