Long in coming due to debates over rights issues, "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" never really justifies the reason for its existence, but it's just another in a fairly long line of movies in recent years that passes the time adequately. One will find a couple of decent moments, a laugh or two (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not), some brief thrills and a decent performance or two.
The sequel focuses on Katey (Romola Garai), who finds herself on the way to Cuba along with her mother, Jeannie (Sela Ward), and sister, Susie (Mika Boorem), because it would mean a promotion for Dad (John Slattery). Katey catches the eye of the wealthy James Phelps (Jonathan Jackson), but her heart rests with local busboy Javier (Diego Luna, from "Y Tu Mama Tambien"). Soon enough, she's taking dance lessons from Javier (and, in a brief cameo, original star Patrick Swaze) in order to try and get into the local dance contest.
So begins a series of sequences where the two fall for one another, despite the dismay of her parents and the local popular girls. It's also no surprise that she comes to the dance lessons with routines strictly planned out, while he tries to enforce the idea of trying to learn your own rhythm and move to your own music - all that jazz, in other words. The Cuban Revolution is also touched upon, although very briefly.
Stars Ramola Garai and Diego Luna make an appealing enough couple, yet neither really are strong enough here to carry the movie. Garai isn't terribly convincing and Luna never quite clicks with her. Still, once the two hit the dance floor, their pairing gets a sudden injection of chemistry. Speaking of the dancing, it's actually quite well-choreographed and probably the movie's biggest selling point.
While there are aspects of "Havana Nights" to appreciate (and it's up for debate whether this is better than the original - not exactly a debate I'm terribly interested in), there's not a surprise to be found or a plot point most won't see coming from a mile away.
VIDEO: "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is presented by Artisan Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a perfectly fine transfer that seems to replicate the film's intended look well. Sharpness and detail are not first-rate, although it seems as if they're not supposed to be: Anthony Richmond's cinematography seems to often have a bit of a soft filter in order to show the heat and, well, I suppose the romance.
The picture doesn't have much in the way of issues - a little bit of compression artifacting can be seen in the shadows of some interior sequences. Edge enhancement did not appear, and the print seemed to be in excellent shape. The film's warm color palette seemed to be a little overheated at times (especially the reds), but that may have also been intentional.
SOUND: "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's sound mix is fairly low-key; the songs spring forth from the front speakers quite nicely, and the music remains dynamic. Surrounds don't kick in all that much, offering some light ambience and a couple of passing instances of musical reinforcement. Audio quality was fine, with no concerns. Overall, a servicable track.
EXTRAS: The DVD includes a commentary from the film's producer and choreographer. The two provide a chatty, enjoyable discussion of the film, talking about structuring the dance sequences around two largely inexperienced dancers, shooting on location and creating the story, as well as some of the history behind the project.
Also included on the DVD are two multi-angle presentations of dance sequences (4 angles), 10 deleted scenes, an 11-minute featurette on the dancing, trailers for other titles from the studio and a music video. Also included is a 23-minute "making of" documentary, which offers interviews from the cast and crew and some well-shot behind-the-scenes footage.
Final Thoughts: "Havana Nights" has a couple of decent moves under its sleeve and the performances aren't bad, but I really didn't find very compelling or worthwhile. There's just not much to it, or at least not much new or unexpected. Artisan's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Recommended for fans, more a rental for everyone else.
The Film **