Dirty Dancing Review Remake ABC

Dirty Dancing Review: You Won't Have the Time of Your Life With ABC Remake

The original Dirty Dancing was no paragon of cinematic excellence, but boy, does it look like Swan Lake next to The Hokey Pokey that is ABC’s remake of the 1987 film.

If you never saw the Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey version, you might like this made-for-TV movie. If you tend to enjoy watching minor characters in dramas get far more screen time than they deserve, you’ll probably be enthralled. And if you’ve ever watched Dancing With the Stars and thought, “You know, the best part about this show is how the dancers mouth the words to the songs during the numbers,” then you’ll love the event, which airs Wednesday, May 24, and which adds an unnecessary musical theater patina to the events of the original movie.

For the uninitiated: The story follows bookish Baby Houseman (played here by Scream Queens‘ Abigail Breslin) during the summer of 1963, when she and her family spend their vacation at a Catskills lodge called Kellerman’s. Baby becomes involved with one of the resort’s working-class dance instructors named Johnny Castle (dancer Colt Prattes), who teaches her mambos both vertical and horizontal. Their attraction is frowned upon by both her parents (Smash‘s Debra Messing and The People v O.J. Simpson‘s Bruce Greenwood) and the management at the conservative family hotel, yet Baby and Johnny still manage to have one heck of a love-affirming dance number before all is said and done.

Why yes, I was the exact perfect age in the late ’80s for the Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey hit to seem like the ultimate romantic coming-of-age tale. So happy you noticed! So of course I’ll judge any subsequent variations harshly. But part of what made the first movie so good — or, rather, so enjoyable — was its complete devotion to the Baby-Johnny storyline. The remake spends far too much time with the other members of the Houseman family, whose dramas are all very well and good — the parents are on the verge of divorce, Baby’s sister Lisa (Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland) forges an interracial flirtation — but they don’t involve practicing lifts in a lake or nailing the gig at the Sheldrake, so who the hell cares, anyway?

Dirty Dancing Review Remake ABCThe project isn’t all bad. Breslin does an admirable job in the lead role. Her Baby is funny, cute, intelligent and engaging — which makes it even harder to believe that she’d fall for Prattes’ clod of a character. Where Swayze’s Johnny was rough-hewn and slightly dangerous, the TV-movie iteration of the character comes across as pretty dull anytime he’s not dancing. To paraphrase some dialogue from the original film, he’s mild. He’s miiiiiiiild!

The framing device the ABC version uses to bring us into and out of the story is so clunky, it’s not worth discussing. But here’s something that is: The first Dirty Dancing quickly establishes that there are people with money, and people with soul, and generally the two don’t mix. That allows Kellerman’s dancers to stand out as beautiful, if economically challenged, swans among the stodgy clientele; Baby crosses over thanks to a little lake water and Johnny’s sexy, sexy arms, and we revel in her transformation.

But in ABC’s Dirty Dancing, every single character glides about, capable of a fancy foxtrot or a perfect pirouette. So by the time Baby carries a watermelon (yep, that’s still in there) up to the staff hut, the dancers blowing off steam looks a lot like what’s going on in the main ballroom… albeit with a little more grinding. Add in the fact that the characters often break into song — like when Johnny sings The Contours’ “Do You Love Me?” on the night he and Baby first meet — and the whole endeavor feels like the Disney ride version of Dirty Dancing: cleaner, prettier and way frothier than the already frothy real thing.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: By adding unnecessary elements and turning Dirty Dancing into a musical, ABC proves that it wouldn’t know what made the original film special if it hit them in the pachanga.

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69 Comments
  1. Kate says:

    I still feel gross seeing the pictures from this. She looks like a tween and he looks like a man. Jennifer Grey looked like a woman but was emotionally immature. You knew there was an age gap but not to the point it felt inappropriate. This just looks predatory.

    • Stacie says:

      I agree. All those pictures that were coming out made it look awful, and now this review basically confirms it. The most important part of this movie is the love story, and the chemistry. The fact that Patrick Swazye and Jennifer Grey didn’t really get a long in real life but had chemistry on screen proves how much they fit their roles. I never understood why they had to remake this movie, and it seems that writers and casting directors didn’t either based on how they are focusing the movie and who they cast as the leads.

    • Wordsmith says:

      It’s funny, because their age gap is only 2 years wider than Swayze and Grey, but it’s definitely MUCH more noticeable. Probably because they’re both 5 years younger than their classic counterparts.

    • Meg says:

      Baby is only supposed to be 17. She’s not supposed to look like a woman yet.

  2. LKE says:

    The summer of 1936? Do you mean 1963?

  3. Jenny Rarden says:

    Damn. Not that I had high hopes regardless. But still. Ugh. I’ll pass. I wasn’t really looking forward to it but planned to at least tune in for a few minutes so I could discuss. Now I won’t bother. Thanks. :)

    • Annie Sisk says:

      Yeah, ouch. This is disappointing, considering the caliber of some of the talent (Messing, Greenwood, even Breslin).

    • shir says:

      I’ve been out with ABC since last year so I won’t be watching anyway. My fave show was cancelled and I don’t need ABC anymore. I have found replacements.

  4. Brian says:

    No way this wasn’t going to suck.

  5. Jo B. says:

    No Jennifer Grey. No Jerry Orbach. No Patrick Swayze. Yeah… no need to tell me that this movie is not going to make me have the time of my life. This remake should have never been done to begin with!

  6. Wiz says:

    From what I’ve seen from the promo. The whole thing looks awkward. The actors looked like they dressed up as the characters for a Halloween theme or something.

  7. Tammy says:

    I was never going to watch it because it was filmed in NC during the height of HB2 protest. Every other film project pulled out of the state at that time but this one.

  8. Theresa Browne says:

    Patrick Swayze was the best I wouldn’t waste my time on this remix 😠

  9. Wendy says:

    The pictures don’t inspire confidence, and this review basically confirms it. And, right or wrong, as others have said, Abigail Breslin looks like a bonafide child next to the actor playing Johnny. Not her fault, obviously, as she cannot change her youthful appearance, but it’s just sort of…eeewww, you know? Jennifer Grey’s Baby was emotionally immature, but she looked like a grown woman. Why not just show the special-cut film as was shown on the former TV Guide channel/now Pop sometime ago (some additional scenes not seen, etc.)?

    And, nice and fair or not, the draw was Baby/Johnny, not The Trials and Tribulations of The Dysfunctional Houseman Family/Marriage. Sigh. This is completely an unneeded remake.

  10. Star says:

    What is Chanel No. 5’s doing here?

  11. Margo Elle says:

    She was completely miscast. I’m sorry to say that, but it worked because Baby already had a dancer’s body, as did Johnny. So, horribly miscast and she looks way too young. Just no.

    • SB says:

      Respectfully disagree, I think it was Johnny that was miscast. Jennifer Grey was thin, but she didn’t have a “dancer’s body”. And even this reviewer said that Abigail did great in the role. They should have found someone younger looking for Johnny.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Can you say train wreck? Why? Why was this even done? Are there no original ideas in Hollywood anymore that they have to continuously remake or revive or refresh or whatever ever hit (or non-hit) from the 80s & 90s?

  13. Roberta Steigerwalt says:

    Why leave Wil enough alone

  14. Phun says:

    Just the thought of a Dirty Dancing remake makes me cringe. Please leave these movies alone.

  15. MMD says:

    It never occurred to me to watch it because I didn’t think it should be remade and this review totally and completely reinforces my gut reaction.
    In my mind nobody can replace Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and Jerry Orbach in those roles.

  16. Aeol says:

    There are some remakes I wouldn’t even consider giving the time of day to, and this is one of them. Blasphemy, I say!! Blasphemy!

    • Andrea says:

      Why anyone thought they would be able to have the time of their lives watching this is beyond me. I agree that the movie is a classic, not because it was the greatest movie ever made, but because Jennifer and Patrick were able to capture a moment in time as they played their characters…a moment that can sadly never be replicated because Patrick is no longer with us.

      There is a reason that Matthew Broderick says that he STILL is regularly called Ferris. People connected to that movie as people connected to Dirty Dancing (and Domino’s is already close enough to Ferris with the homage in their commercial.) If people don’t want to watch Dirty Dancing, fine, but if they do, for goodness sake, watch the movie! This will NEVER be it, and it’s absurd to think it had the capability to ever even come close.

  17. Cas says:

    These pics are awful. This whole thing looks terrible and miscast. Shame on ABC.

  18. Nate says:

    Now I’m really getting ready to hate watch it!

  19. Virginia Jones says:

    I consider the original a classic. Why mess around with perfection? It would be like trying to make a second GONE WITH THE WIND using anyone. Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable own those characters

  20. Maggie says:

    I won’t be watching this. Why do they keep trying to remake all of the original movies? Can’t they come up with anything new on their own? They should not mess with perfection. Patrick Swayze is Johnny Castle and he can not be replaced!

  21. Mary says:

    Thanks for the warning, not that I really had any intention of watching. Seriously, these remakes have got to stop. None will ever be better than the original. Writers, get creative and come up with new shows.

  22. maia says:

    This movie looks terrible. That being said Abigail Breslin is 21. That’s not really a “child.” Swayze and Grey were probably too old to play adolescents as they were 34 and 27 when they filmed the original. Baby is supposed to be 16/17 and Johnny is supposed to be 24.

    • Linda says:

      Val Chmerkovskiy would have made a great Johnny.

    • Kate says:

      She’s 21? Wow, time has flown. She looks way younger than that, which is going to be a gift and a curse for her. In this movie, it’s a curse. She looks like a 14-year-old in some shots, which makes the relationship with Johnny feel skeevy.

    • AnnieM says:

      I had no idea of their real ages, but I always thought Baby was supposed to be 18, as she was talking about going off to college that fall.

  23. A complete garbage. You can’t touch a classic like that ABC. Shame on you.

  24. KLS says:

    So, was this a Paul Lee idea/go ahead, or does it frmly lay on the shoulders of new ABC head Channing Dungey? If it was Dungey’s, then ABC has an even rougher road ahead than I thought.

  25. Carmen says:

    Seeing grown people upset about Hollywood remakes is so funny, especially for an overhyped movie like this one lol

    Is it ever that serious? 🤣

  26. May says:

    Almost as if they wanted to make a bad version of Dirty Dancing because it was too perfect.

  27. I knew this would be awful. If you’re going to do a remake, for petes sake can you at least TRY.

  28. soapie0 says:

    I won’t watch it, but only because I’m in the minority and didn’t like the original Dirty Dancing movie. I was 12 when it came out which seems like a good age to find it, and someone like Johnny, romantic. But, even then I just thought it was terribly inappropriate and that opinion has not gotten better as I’ve grown older (ha!).

  29. hsh17 says:

    I stopped reading after the first sentence claimed the original was not a “paragon of cinematic excellence” because I had to refute that opinion immediately.

    It’s too perfect and precious for words. Please don’t argue that it’s not. It hurts my heart.

    Now that I’ve defended the original, I’ll go finish the review of this terrible remake.

  30. AnnieM says:

    Patrick Swayze was a god who walked among we mere mortals, and can not be replaced. That is all. :-)

  31. Beverly says:

    I have no intention of watching this… I hate remakes and it makes me wonder if the writers need to retire and the person that thought it up needs to be committed There is no way this movie can be remade in a positive manner… if it’s not broken, DON’T fix it… waste of time, film and talent that could be used in an original movie!!

  32. Phyllis Ramos says:

    I’m not impressed by the previews we will see how it is nothing like the original love Dirty Dancing hope they don’t ruins it

  33. Phyllis Ramos says:

    I’m not impressed by the previews we will see how it is nothing like the original

  34. Renee says:

    I have my favorite movies and some are over 20 years old and there are a lot of them that just shouldn’t be remade or have a sequel either. Just leave them as the classic they are thank you.

  35. Leslie says:

    There was a national tour of the stage version of Dirty Dancing; this is the film version of that and it was terrible. The only good thing about it was the dancing and the singing because the ensemble I saw was very talented. Any fan of the original is only going to be disappointed.

  36. Lisa Stern says:

    Since none of you (other than the reviewer) have seen the remake you should not jump to negative conclusions. I just saw the premiere and it is fabulous! I’m a huge fan of the original, however, this remake expands the depth and breadth of each character, enhances the story lines and proves that each of these actors is a multitalented star. With the exception of corny scene, this made for TV version of Dirty Dancing will knock your socks off!

    • Susan says:

      I’m sorry, no one could ever replace the dancing shoes of the gorgeous Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Johnny in this is not even good looking. I’ve watched the trailer and it’s awful.

    • Vi says:

      From what I saw, ackward to say the least. No chemisty at all. But each to its own. I won’t be watching. Can’t beat Patrick and Jennifer. But I am interested in seeing just how many eyes do watch.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who are you kidding??? This everything about this movie is atrociously horrible.

    • Koni Royval says:

      You are out of your mind. A Johnny that looks like a Fonzy wanna be and for Baby? an overweight girl with zero sex appeal. Fabulous my foot,you must have never seen the original. The story line did not need touched. That was a joke,you wrote your comment to piss people off.

  37. Lisa Yeary says:

    Awful! Awful! Awful! Completely destroys all the integrity and magic of this classic movie?!!! Watched ten minutes, and wanted to puke!!! The age of the re-ruin had got to stop! I can’t even believe money was wasted on producing this piece of poop…. any one who hasn’t seen it… don’t waste your time, you’ll be sorely disappointed!

  38. Just saw this on TV. Whose idea was it to cast Baby on the plump side with big breasts? It makes her trying to pass as a professional dancer at the Sheldrake hotel ridiculous. Where would they find a spangled costume big enough to fit her? And the seduction scene when the wide strap of her extra support bra was revealed was unsexy.
    The actor playing Johnny isn’t handsome enough to hold a candle to Swayze though his body’s OK plus he should be told that his mouth hanging half open looks more unintelligent than seductive.

    Terrible casting all around.

    • ninergrl6 says:

      I agree that the casting was off, but because of the nonexistent chemistry and apparent discrepancies in their ages, not because of size. In fact, I really appreciate that Breslin looks like a “normal” person, realistic non-sexy bra and all. However, the costume designers didn’t do her any favors. It’s like they intentionally put her in unflattering clothes. Maybe that was the point, to make Baby look frumpy?

  39. Ann says:

    You are kidding, right? There is absolutely no comparison to Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The acting in the new movie stinks and the dancing is clumsy and out of step. Only good thing is the music. I rate it a 0

  40. Lindy says:

    Terrible Remake of Dirty Dancing!!!! Abagail Breslin cannot dance!!!

  41. Pattie says:

    Baby has too much weight on her and can’t act. Singing shouldn’t be on there – only dancing to the music. Should stick to the original storyline.

  42. Karen Bess says:

    Swayze & Grey were perfectly cast! Such talent & chemistry! Grey’s casting for this remake was not right for this part. I wish her nothing but the best in the future, but this just isn’t it.

  43. Mary says:

    Hated it! Didnt even come close to the real movie. Abby was a slug on the dance floor…. I’m 63 and could dance circles around her!!!!! Whata waste of time and money for abc. ….. oh and she’s like the wind really sucked!

  44. Nikki Parsons says:

    I’ve finally had a chance to watch for myself and unfortunately, it’s as bad as everyone said. Even if I was unfamiliar with the chemistry of the original cast, this wouldn’t be passible. I love the effort to give all the stories a little more depth, but found myself not caring. All of the “iconic” moments were misses. The singing shouldn’t have happened. The costuming was bad all around. Breslin dancing *looks at movie title* was so stiff and uncomfortable. She just never got it. Nicole Scheringer was the best dancer around. And lastly, where were the Shumackers?!?