Nobody puts Baby in the corner in “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” For that, you can be thankful.
But you probably won’t have the time of your life watching this totally unnecessary prequel to “Dirty Dancing.”
And judging by their laughable dialogue, mediocre dancing ability and total lack of chemistry, it doesn’t look like stars Diego Luna and Romola Garai are having the time of their lives, either.
Garai plays Katey, a prim, studious American who moves to Havana in 1958 with her parents (Sela Ward, dolled up like Jackie O, and John Slattery) and little sister (Mika Boorem) when her father’s company transfers him there.
There she falls for Javier (Luna), a waiter at her upscale hotel who teaches her about Cuban dance and urges her, a la Obi-Wan Kenobi, to “just feel the music.”
Never mind that Havana is on the verge of revolution — these kids just want to party! And what better place than the Latin ballroom dance competition, where they can show off their moves (and shock the wealthy Americans with their interracial romance).
But first, Katey and Javier must go through the obligatory rigors of rehearsal, and in an attempt at mirroring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in the 1987 original, their awkward gyrations eventually evolve into forbidden love.
It’s enough to make you long for Swayze himself — if only in a nostalgic way. Then poof! He magically shows up, doing sweaty pirouettes in a reprise of his role as a dance instructor (although he’s not Johnny Castle, because the story lines aren’t connected).
Laugh all you want, but Swayze is the best thing about the movie — he looks a bit reptilian, but he still has a certain charisma and he still has the moves. His presence is also a reminder, however, of how substandard this second “Dirty Dancing” is by comparison.
Guy Ferland (“Telling Lies in America”), directing from a script by Boaz Yakin (“The Rookie”) and Victoria Arch, has lost the sense of longing and melancholy that made the original a favorite of teen girls in the ’80s.
In its place are jarringly bad dialogue and a weird musical time warp in which the songs have Spanish lyrics but a hip-hop beat, and Mya is introduced on stage at the dance contest as Cuba’s brightest musical star.
Based on Luna’s performance in “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” he’s clearly destined for better things. He’s boyishly cute in a Ralph Macchio-esque way, but he wasn’t a dancer before the movie and, unfortunately, he isn’t one now.
Garai, puffed up in the film’s press notes as a “rising star,” has a sort of freshly scrubbed prettiness about her. But she sounds as if she’s reading her lines for the first time when she says in a breathy monotone to Luna, on the morning after the revolution, “I’m so glad I could see all this with you.”
That must be what passes for having the time of your life in a half-baked follow-up like this.