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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Dirty Dancing: Limited Keepsake Edition

May 4th, 2010

Dirty Dancing: Limited Keepsake Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Dirty Dancing came out in 1987 and became a bit of a cultural phenomenon, creating a dancing craze and looking poised to launch the movie careers of its two stars. At least that's what a lot of people thought would happen. It really wasn't the case. Perhaps the film tapped into a zeitgeist of the times. If so, how well does it hold up more than 20 years later? And is the Limited Keepsake Edition worth picking up?

Set in 1963, the film starts with Frances "Baby" Houseman narrating as her family heads to the Catskills for vacation. "Baby" is a bit of a square and is more studious than her sister. She's planning on heading to college and eventually going into the Peace Corps. This might make her a bit of a square, but it makes her father happy. Her sister, Lisa (played by Jane Brucker), is more of a fashion enthusiast and gets along with her mother (played by Kelly Bishop).

While at the resort, she hears an after-hour party the staff is throwing that includes music she's never heard before. She also sees Johnny Castle performing a type of dance with Penny that she's never seen before either. Baby is instantly drawn to Johnny, but she's too shy to talk to him. But when she befriends Penny, this leads to her replacing her as Johnny's mambo partner. And that leads to a training montage and eventually romance. But since they are from two different backgrounds, can their romance survive?

This film cost just $5 million to make and stared no real name actors, but it made a boatload of money at the box office, more than $200 million worldwide. So obviously it has a lot of fans. I, however, I am not one of them. I find the story predictable, the romance unbelievable, the characters mostly unsympathetic, etc. There are several sub-plots in the movie (the hotel owners trying to set up his obnoxious son with Baby, the waiter dating Lisa but cheating on her, etc.) but most of these are throwaways that don't add any depth to the film. No cliché is spared and this film has plenty of genres to pick from. There's a dance competition, so we need a training montage. There's a cross-class romance, so we need a disapproving father. And it all comes together in an ending that's just too happy, too neatly wrapped up.

At best, Dirty Dancing is entertaining fluff, but I think for a lot of people the enjoyment comes from nostalgia more than anything else.

Extras on the Two-Disc DVD include two audio commentary tracks and a pop-up trivia track, which means to watch all of the extras, you will have to sit through the movie three times. No. There is a 12-minute featurette on the locations where the film was shot and a 14-minute featurette on the legacy of the movie, starting with the effect it had on the studio that made it. There area a trio of tributes to the people who were involved in the movie that have since past away: Patrick Swayze, Emile Ardolino, and Jerry Orbach. The Rhythm of Dancing is a 4-minute featurette shows Patrick Swayze in his music studio and has him talking about his music career. There are a couple short featurettes under the title For the Fans that highlight some of the more hardcore fans of the movie. Dancing to the Music is a 17-minute featurette on creation of the soundtrack. Dancing with Patrick Swayze runs 12 minutes and it is an interview where he talks about how he came to be in the world of dance. There are 38 seconds of outtakes, three music videos, images of the script with notes by Eleanor Bergstein, and two dance sequences with multi-angle options. There are four interviews with Jennifer Grey, Kenny Ortega, etc. Up next are some screen tests and deleted, alternative, and extended scenes. There is a seven-minute vintage featurette and finally there's Dirty Dancing Live in Concert, which at 82 minutes long is almost as long as the movie itself.

That's hours of extras, literally, plus the DVD comes with a booklet for photos, character bios, quiz, and more.

There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, but at least all of them fit on one disc, which is nice. And the Blu-ray also comes with a digital copy of the movie. The video and audio is better than expected for a low-budget movie that is more than 20 years old, but that's not saying too much. Then again, you get all of this material for just $23.99, which is less than 15% more than the DVD. It's hard to argue with that price.

That said...

The Verdict

This is not the Blu-ray debut for Dirty Dancing. The format has only been around for a little under four years, and this is the second time this movie has been released on Blu-ray. Compared to the previous release, there are a number of new special features, including the tribute to Patrick Swayze and the live concert. If you are a fan of the movie but don't own it on Blu-ray yet, perhaps because you hadn't made the upgrade to High Definition in 2007, the Limited Keepsake Edition is worth picking up. But I can't recommend upgrading, not unless you are a hardcore fan.

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