`Dancing' is terrible tango

'Club Dread' aptly named

Movie Reviews

February 28, 2004|By Newsday

Rated PG. Sun score: *

Redoing Dirty Dancing with Romola Garai as a bookish American in Havana on the eve of Castro's revolution and Diego Luna as a Cuban busboy who dances is a terrible idea, especially under the title Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. (Critics will be falling all over themselves to propose follow-ups like Johannesburg Twilight or Haitian Haze.)

On the one hand, this movie demeans the plight of the Cuban people. On the other hand, you wish the downfall of Batista would get out of the way of the noble underclass boy releasing the energies of the proper middle-class girl.

Although co-producer/choreographer JoAnn Jansen has based the film on her own life, director Guy Ferland pounds anything authentic in the material into formula. It's all so predictable you can see the moviemakers disappear from your rear-view mirror.

The minute the characters come on-screen their functions and destinies are clear. You know Garai's ex-ballroom-dancer parents (Sela Ward and John Slattery) will gyrate from outrage to acceptance. You even know that a slick corporate heir (Jonathan Jackson), Garai's romantic alternative to Luna, will be an immature cad who mistakes her yen for lusty movement with looseness.

Whatever merit Jansen's choreography had in the staging gets lost in the editing, which mixes steam-heat nightclub shots with details of the less-than-stellar leads, and sets up the climactic competitions with the impersonal proficiency of a TV talent show. Garai and Luna lack rapport, erotic or terpsichorean.

Patrick Swayze, in his cameo as dance instructor Johnny Castle, is the only one who expresses the natural joy of movement that a Dirty Dancing movie should be all about.

- Michael Sragow

Broken Lizard's Club Dread

Rated R. Sun score: *

Broken Lizard's Club Dread is a burlesque of the Nightmare on Elm Street- Halloween-Friday the Thirteenth school of horror movie, films that had become parodies of themselves long before Wes Craven made Scream and turned bona fide spoofs into their own self-sustaining industry.

This film feels DOA from the moment the guests get off the boat at Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island. Obnoxious people marked for early death, music that swells so often you could surf it and victims who run from a walking killer who still manages to catch them - stuff that's been done a hundred times.

Bill Paxton appears, for inexplicable reasons, as Coconut Pete, owner of the island resort dedicated to overdrinking, underdressing and unsafe sex. Why is someone killing off Pete's staff? The better question is why not.

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