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The summer of 1963 innocent 17-year-old Baby (Grey) vacations with her parents at a Catskill's resort. One evening she is drawn to the staff quarters by stirring music. There she meets Johnny, the hotel dance instructor, who is as experienced as Baby is naive. Baby soon becomes Johnny's pupil in dance and love.
For more about Dirty Dancing and the Dirty Dancing Blu-ray release, see Dirty Dancing Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 14, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston, Wayne Knight
Director: Emile Ardolino
» See full cast & crew
Dirty Dancing Blu-ray Review
Put this miserable transfer in the corner where it's out of sight and out of mind.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 14, 2010
Feel the music.
One of the most iconic films from the 1980s is the 1960s-set Dirty Dancing, a movie that solidified the late Patrick Swayze as a force to be reckoned with on the Hollywood landscape and helped sell a few soundtracks for RCA. Dirty Dancing is indeed a movie built around its stars and its sounds; all else, it seems, that falls in between is fairly meaningless, repetitive, and predictable, but there's an intangible that doesn't show up on the soundtrack or the cast roster that makes the movie far better than it deserves to be: magic. Dirty Dancing's fun and innocent coming-of-age story is nicely, if not somewhat generically, captured through its timeless spirit of invigoration and boundary-breaking in the name of true love. Through the dance routines, happening soundtrack, hackneyed plot developments, and artificial characters flows a magical energy current that sparks the story of a young girl's rebirth on summer vacation as she transitions from being a "Baby" to coming to know a love that's born of her tender heart and meager ways. Her story may not be an original one, but as it's presented in Dirty Dancing, it takes on a surprisingly touching and genuine feel that, despite the lack of any real surprises in the movie, constantly injects a jolt of positive, feel-good vibes into every scene and certainly helps in energizing the picture through to its memorably-staged and, literally, uplifting finale.
In the summer of 1963, "Baby" (Jennifer Grey, Red Dawn) and her family are traveling to scenic Kellerman's Resort for some much-needed R&R. Baby's vacation takes a turn for the interesting when she has a chance meeting with one of the resort's entertainers, Johnny (Patrick Swayze, Ghost), whose dance partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), has become unexpectedly pregnant. The philanthropic Baby gathers the money to pay for Penny's abortion, but the procedure will leave the dancer unable to perform at a crucial recital. Baby convinces Johnny to teach her the moves and take Penny's place. As she becomes a part of a world she never knew existed, she begins to develop deeper feelings for Johnny, who is the kind of boy her father (Jerry Orbach) always warned her about. As Baby discovers a newfound talent, she must struggle with the pressures of performing for an audience while also juggling her time and keeping her relationship and feelings in check, lest they get her in more trouble than this daddy's girl has ever known.
With a movie like Dirty Dancing, it's easy to see why there are both lovers and haters of the material; no doubt it's one of the more easily-recognizable "Chick Flicks" of all time, but that doesn't mean that the male members of the audience should prematurely disregard what the picture has to offer. Despite the film's terribly linear story arc that never once strays from formula, there's an underlying sweetness to its simplicity. Dirty Dancing is nothing if not a reliable feel-good movie that works in spite of the fact that it does nothing but build towards an ending that's as predictable as they come once the crux of the plot -- and several of its nuances -- is laid out on the table. Dirty Dancing manages to retain a positive energy that undeniably flows through every frame of the movie, even through the haze of a hokey script that never rises above the level of the mundane. Nevertheless, it's hard to escape the picture's reputation -- both deserved and perceived -- in the twenty-some years since it waltzed into theaters. It's a movie with an audience that adores the material for all its feel-good notes, but it's also one with a group of detractors that understandably can't see past the generic script, predictable developments, and the general sense of fatigue that's the result of years of hype, numerous home video releases, countless airings on television, and airwaves packed with "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Dirty Dancing isn't the end-all, be-all of its genre, but it's also a picture that holds up well even through the test of time and despite the many elements -- scenes, dialogue, and soundtrack -- that themselves have become clichés and popular culture references that are understood even by those with but the most cursory of knowledge surrounding the film.
Still, the one element that really defines Dirty Dancing is its soundtrack, and a single song at that. Ironically, that song is "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," a decidedly 1980s-inspired single that's the feature attraction in a movie set in the early 1960s. Nevertheless, it works because it so wonderfully captures the enthusiasm and purpose of the sequence is accompanies through both its tempo and lyrics. Like any good movie built around a surefire hit piece of music, the song's theme is hinted at several times before its grand entrance in the finale, and by the time it's finally heard in full, it works wonders for the movie's final hurrah. Despite the negatives of the predictable nature of what the final dance scene has in store for the various characters and in conjunction with the positives of Kenny Ortega's (he of High School Musical and Michael Jackson's This is It fame) finely-tuned dance choreography, the song is what truly injects a burst of energy into the film, along with what seem to be honestly jovial and practically seamless performances from a cast that's clearly having a blast filming the picture's physically-challenging but emotionally-satisfying conclusion. Most impressive is the way the movie sells Baby's father and his almost instant transformation as he, through the excitement of the room and the palpable glow his daughter emotes, comes to see her as an adult rather than as a child, the aptly-nicknamed "Baby" still innocent and sweet but having reached a point in her life where she can venture forth and become the woman she was destined to be and at the side of a man that has shown her how to grow past her naiveté while still maintaining the air of innocence and integrity that her father so cherished.
Dirty Dancing Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dirty Dancing stumbles onto Blu-ray with what is, unfortunately, one of the worst transfers out there. The 1080p, 1.78:1-framed image disappoints on almost every level, with problems so egregious and detrimental to the viewing experience that even those without a care in the world as to how relatively "good" or "bad" a transfer looks will be alarmed at the obvious missteps throughout. It's bad enough that one opening shot looks like some Coke was spilled on the screen, or that a hazy blue line randomly but briefly appears over the left-hand side of the screen during an establishing beachside shot in chapter six, but those represent the least of Dirty Dancing's problems. The picture looks terribly rough at the outset; whether or not the establishing shots (beyond the highly-stylized opening title sequence) were meant to look like they were captured on spotty 1960s film stock is up for debate, but the transfer renders the opening scenes terribly, sporting murky details, excess noise, plenty of popping white speckles, low levels of detail, and spotty color reproduction. Then the fun really begins. The transfer is packed with excessive aliasing that causes an unnatural wavy effect on various objects throughout the film; the white-with-blue-stripes shirt that Jerry Orbach's character wears upon his arrival to Kellerman's fluctuates so badly that it's enough to induce a headache. Adding insult to injury are jagged edges that are noticeable in practically every scene; lines in clothing are particularly susceptible, and even human outlines can take on a blocky outer edge. If that were not enough, the image sometimes appears artificially smoothed over and flat, flesh tones are often displayed with an aggressive red push, blocking is often visible, and blacks usually overwhelm the image and devour any details in their wake. The plusses of the transfer are few; fine detail can appear as borderline decent in a few scenes, particularly when examining the textures on tree trunks or more intricately-crafted clothing. A few bright exterior shots later in the film also resolve facial details fairly well. Color reproduction is steadily bland, with some shades, particularly reds, unnaturally boosted, while other shades seem dimmer in comparison. Indeed, Dirty Dancing can look passably good if one were to glance at just the right moment. Still, a few decent shots can't make up for what is nothing short of an abysmal transfer that is one of the worst the format has seen, particularly among high-profile films.
Dirty Dancing Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dirty Dancing's Blu-ray release stirs up a passable but ultimately underwhelming PCM 6.1 uncompressed soundtrack. This is a fairly flat and routine track that lacks much kick and vigor, two elements desperately needed to bring the true Dirty Dancing experience to fruition. The track proves to be front heavy with some light rear channel supportive elements in musical reproduction, but the various songs remain entrenched across the primary three channels. Some of the punchier tunes heard throughout do offer some low end support, but generally, the presentation will leave listeners wanting a fuller, clearer, and more robust presentation of the picture's famed soundtrack. Fortunately, the finale sounds comparatively good, offering a more engaging presentation that enjoys the richest clarity and proves the most satisfying listen in the film. The track also delivers some scattered atmospherics that also come primarily through the front; never does the listener feel truly immersed in the world of Dirty Dancing. Unfortunately, some dialogue becomes lost and/or muffled underneath music and sound effects, but the spoken word is, in general, suitably clear and discernible. While not on the same level as the bottom-feeding transfer, this uncompressed soundtrack rates as mediocre at best and a far cry from what the picture deserves.
Dirty Dancing Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dirty Dancing whirls onto Blu-ray with plenty of extra features, the package headlined by a pair of audio commentary tracks. The first, featuring Writer Eleanor Bergstein, makes for a quality listen as she reminisces on how the screenplay came to be, beginning with her assemblage of a soundtrack around which she constructed the story. She also discusses the contrast between the styles of music in the film, the performances of the cast, shooting locations, tweaks to the script as the filmmaking process moved along, plenty of minor anecdotes from the set, Dirty Dancing's popularity at the time of release, the use of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" in the finale, and much more. Though only the film's writer, Bergstein shares a broad array of knowledge about the entire filmmaking process, making this a fairly engaging listen that fans will enjoy. Track two is a compilation commentary with Choreographer Kenny Ortega, Assistant Choreographer Miranda Garrison, Cinematographer Jeff Jur, Costume Designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and Production Designer David Chapman. This track isn't always as smooth and natural as listeners may be accustomed to, but the strength of the information more than makes up for what is a somewhat choppy feel. Each participant covers the information behind their primary task on the film but they also expand into other segments of the filmmaking process to complete what is a fairly well-rounded track. Also included is the Dirty Dancing 20th Anniversary Pop-Up Trivia Track, which is listed with the subtitle settings and not in the special features menu.
Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze (1080i, 12:29) is a retrospective interview piece that features the late actor sharing his thoughts on the film's construction, the importance of dance in society, the picture's themes, his love of dance and acting, the work of the crew and cast, the pace of the shoot, and the soundtrack and his contributions to it. The piece is intercut with scenes from the film and behind-the-scenes footage. Tribute to Jerry Orbach (1080i, 6:34) looks back at the life and career of the star, the piece narrated by Kelly Bishop. Next up is Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey Screen test Montage (1080p, 1:12), followed by Jennifer Grey Screen Test Comparisons which contrasts the actress' screen tests with either the final or extended scene from the film. Included is Baby Blackmails Lisa (1080p, 0:53 screen test and 1:08 extended scene) and Baby Confronts Dad (1080p, 1:06 screen test and 1:37 final scene).
Multi Angle Dance Sequences (1080p) allows viewers to watch two scenes -- The Lift (0:49) and Everybody Dance (1:56) from four different perspectives. Next up is The Classic Story on Stage (1080p, 13:20), a piece that serves as an overview of the stage production of Eleanor Bergstein's story, looking at the changes, the similarities, the casting, the new additions to the soundtrack, and more. This disc also features a trio of interview segments with Actress Jennifer Grey (1080i, 11:23), Writer Eleanor Bergstein (1080i, 18:39), and Choreographer Kenny Ortega (1080i, 15:24). Following these interviews is a trio of music videos: "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen (1080i, 3:49), "She's Like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze (1080i, 3:53), and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (1080i, 4:45). Next in line is Emile Ardolino Tribute (1080i, 13:31), a look back at the career of the film's late director. Also included is a collection of eleven deleted scenes (1080p, varied runtimes), three alternate scenes (1080p, varied runtimes, and ironically, looking better than the final versions found on this disc), six extended scenes (1080p, varied runtimes), a collection of outtakes (1080p, 0:41), and a photo gallery (1080i).
Dirty Dancing Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
No doubt about it, Dirty Dancing is a classic, but that doesn't make it a universally-loved film. A picture comprised of straight formula but with an underlying magical energy and charm in the way it so easily goes about its business in creating the ultimate feel-good romance and coming-of-age tale, the picture delivers what it aims for without trying to be something that it's not. Supported by one of the most popular soundtracks of all time, Dirty Dancing is a film that's sure to remain a favorite among genre fans that enjoy its heartwarming coming-of-age story, even if the picture never really separates itself from its similarly-themed peers from either a dramatic or structural perspective. Unfortunately, Lionsgate's Blu-ray release is, technically, a total disappointment. Even casual viewers with no concern for the intricacies of what makes for even a decent picture quality will immediately note this transfer's many flaws, and the uncompressed mix, while not necessarily a poor one, isn't befitting of the picture's music-dependent soundtrack. The disc does contain a quality assortment of extras, but the abysmal picture quality is a deal-breaker that cannot be ignored. Buyers are urged to hold out for Lionsgate's upcoming re-release which will, hopefully, offer the vastly improved transfer the film deserves. As it is, this is a disc to avoid even at the cheapest of sale prices.
Dirty Dancing: Other Editions
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Dirty Dancing Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dirty Dancing Blu-ray Collection - February 27, 2012
Next May, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring the Dirty Dancing Collection to Blu-ray. This set features both Dirty Dancing as well as its sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. The Dirty Dancing Collection streets on May 8th.
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