Today, I would like to take this time to revel in one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures: Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. Do you remember this movie? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. This 2004 flick flew under the radar—it was in theaters during the same time as The Notebook, so you were likely preoccupied with the profound realization that Ryan Gosling is hot, hot, hot. No worries. I completely understand.
But if you DO remember this movie, then you and I have a lot to reminisce about. Although its existence is entirely unnecessary, (A sequel to one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time? No thank you.) I love this movie. Not only did it give me something to watch during college on my used DVD player when I was procrastinating on a project, this campy reimagining of the 1987 classic was just plain dancing fun.
Recently, I was flipping through my cable channels on a boring Friday night when I discovered that this movie was just about to start. So much for going to bed early! I texted my roommate from college and we proceeded to watch it together way into the wee hours of the morning. (Thank god for unlimited texting.) So go ahead. Rewatch this gem with us. You won’t regret it.
First things first, the soundtrack to this film is so much fun.
Who knew that the Black Eyed Peas were alive during the 50s! Listen to it whenever you’re in the mood to move your hips.
Instead of taking place at an upstate New York resort in the 50s, this movie takes place in Havana on the cusp of the Cuban Revolution. Eighteen-year-old bookworm Katey moves to Cuba with her family. It’s a strange new world to her, and she’s not so sure about it.
Until…she meets Javier.
And of course they have a movie-style meet cute. He drops her drinks when waiting on her and her classmates. Her new rich snobby friends call him a racial slur. Then he gets yelled at by his boss, even though it was a minor accident. Weren’t the 50s fun?!
Also, Mad Men was so very Mad Men before Mad Men.
Why hello there, Betty (January Jones)! Greetings, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser). Is that you, Roger (John Slattery)?
Then we see Javier dance.
Just…yum. I can’t tell you how many “Salsa Nights” I went to at various clubs during college just in the hopes of meeting my own Javier. The man can move those hips.
Even more gyrating. Cuba!
I don’t know why this song is so catchy, but damnit, it is.
Well, that escalated quickly.
Remember how Katey met James, a decently nice boy who appreciated her book smarts? Remember how gentlemanly he was? Well, turns out it was all a rouse. (That, or the writers decided that, if she’s to end up with the boy from “the wrong side of the tracks,” it’s probably better if they turn James into a racist and—just for safe measure—a rapist.)
Siiiiiiiiigh. As you can tell, I find this storyline a little out of left field. Oh well. She stands her ground and runs off into the arms of the beautiful Cuban boy who has stolen her heart (and ours).
Dance montage! (“That’s a box.”)
So, Katey decides that James is a class-A jerk (which he is) and decides to help the super-cute Javier earn some cash to make up for the pay he lost when she accidentally cost him his job. (The 50s strike again!) And even though she may not yet realize it, she just wants to spend some one-on-one time with the boy because, let’s face it girl—You’re a smitten kitten.
Dance Movie Clichés
So naturally, they decide to enter a dance contest to earn some extra money! Better start practicing to loosen those hips, little lady. Javier’s got some teaching to do.
And guys…Guys! If they mix what he knows—how to feel the music—with what she knows—structured ballroom moves—they could win! Don’t you just love cliché dance movie moments? I do. I really, really do.
But Javier’s not her only teacher. Cue cameo!
If Katey’s going to pull this off, she needs help from the one man who’s wise beyond his years. Aging Patrick Swayze! (RIP) But here’s my one question: Is he supposed to be Johnny Castle from the original movie, which takes place five years later? After the Cuban Revolution, did he move to the Catskills and age backwards? Or is he supposed to be some distant relative of Johnny’s? OK, that’s more than one question, but I need to know all the things about Johnny Castle.
Who knew that projectors could be so hot?
But back to the One True Pairing: Javier and Katey are watching old tapes of Katey’s parents back in their ballroom days on a projector screen in a musty garage. They decide to practice dancing in front of the screen, and Things. Get. Hot. It suddenly transitions from pretty, flowing ballroom moves to straight up grinding. Get it girl.
The Best Scene in the Entire Movie
Finally it’s the day of the dance competition! The choreography to this is a lot of fun, and during the routine the couple shares their first kiss. I watched this movie with my college roommates a lot back in the day, and what I remember most are the squeals that emitted from one of my roommates mouth every time Javier and Katey share their first kiss.
We usually rewound the scene and rewatched it a couple of times in a row.
Wow, we were nerds.
In the original cut of the film (as shown in a deleted scene on my DVD), the couple kisses earlier than the dance competition, but the studio cut that scene, making THIS their first kiss. And I have to say, I like this SO much better. It’s like the dance brought it out of them, and they just couldn’t keep their lips off each other for one more second.
I really wasn’t lying when I said I love dance movie clichés.
Superimposed Patrick Swayze
Was Patrick Swayze super busy or something? They clearly filmed his scene at the dance competition on a different day than they filmed any of the other dance competition scenes. Nice try, editing room. Nice try.
El Beso De Final
No lie: I learned all of the lyrics to this Spanish song, sung beautifully by Christina Aguilera. The song takes place after Katey and Javier perform at their final dance competition. They didn’t win, but the Cuban Revolution has started and Javier is excited about the potential for his country. (Hate to break it to you Javier, but you probably should have followed Katey to America.) Regardless, I love this song. It’s about sharing that final kiss with the person you will always love; it’s absolutely heartbreaking. (Also: Foreshadowing!)
My college roommate likes to “rewrite” endings to movies if she finds the ending unsatisfactory. For this film: “They go to America, become dance pros at a resort in the Catskills, die in bed together, old and happy a la The Notebook.” Seems legit.
What’s your go-to guilty pleasure movie?