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Swapping early 1960s Catskills for late ’50s Cuba — against the backdrop of Castro’s revolution no less — the superficial but entertaining new pic offers equal parts freshness and kitsch appeal set to a pulsating Latin soundtrack that should prove commercially vibrant.
While teenage girls would seem the prime target for the Artisan-Miramax co-prod — going out Stateside through Lions Gate and offshore through Miramax — the original pic’s legions of passionate fans also likely will be curious to see how the formula has held up over time.
Javier sparks Katey’s fire on the dance floor, but as a result of her sister Susie (Mika Boorem) seeing them canoodling later, he loses his job at the hotel.
Katey convinces Javier to be her partner for a New Year’s Eve dance contest, saying he could use the prize money to help his family.
Katey immediately bristles at the superior attitudes of the smart-set teens toward the Cuban wait staff at their swanky hotel, but agrees to date James (Jonathan Jackson), whose father is her dad’s boss.
When they skip out on the square country club and head to steamy local hangout La Rosa Negra, James comes on too strong, causing Katey to dump him and hook up with hotel staffer Javier (Diego Luna), whose moves she admired earlier.
The push to mount a sequel went through a number of turns, almost coming together at one point in a South Beach, Miami setting, pairing Natalie Portman and Ricky Martin.
The scripters and director Guy Ferland capably chronicle the obstacle-strewn romance and the mutual growth it affords both partners, and give more weight to the political backdrop than is necessarily expected in a teen romance.
However, they fail to construct the same kind of syrupy closing-act emotional uplift that made “Dirty Dancing” end on a high.
Unlike Grey’s character in “Dirty Dancing,” Katey has her own moves down thanks to her parents, who were Latin ballroom dancers in their youth.
Her mother (Sela Ward) still regrets having given up her one-time passion.
Early life Luna was born Diego Luna Alexander in Mexico City, the son of Fiona Alexander, a British-born costume designer, and Alejandro Luna, a set designer who is one of the most acclaimed living theatre, cinema and opera set designers in Mexico.