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Dancing and politics mix like oil and water in this latest rendition of the dance ?classic? from the late-eighties. Similar in story to the first, this time the moves are taking place in Havana on the very cusp of the Cuban revolution.
In November 1958, 18-year-old Katey Miller (Romola Garai) reluctantly follows her parents and younger sister from St. Louis to Havana, where her father has accepted an executive position with Ford. The apparently shy girl finds the decadence of their new residence, the exclusive Oceana Hotel, to be overwhelming, especially after meeting the other young pampered American teens camped out at the poolside.
Repeatedly ignoring the advances from James (Jonathan Jackson), the son of her father's boss, Katey instead finds fancy in Javier (Diego Luna), a common hotel busboy. The Cuban's personality is already enough to ignite curiosity within her heart, but when this daughter of two passionate ballroom dancers discovers Javier's love of Latin dancing, the flames of desire are turned up full.
When James tries to force his attentions on Katey, the plucky girl has the foresight to use the resulting ripped dress as a powerful bargaining chip. Either James agrees to cover for her future evening rendezvous with Javier, or she tells their parents what happened. But other teens become wise to the American girl's relationship with the local boy, and the next day Javier is released for fraternizing with a hotel guest.
Feeling responsible for his plight, Katey agrees to help him enter a dance contest, making it even more essential for them to practice frequently. At first the conservative girl is offended at the "full contact" sport of Cuban dance, preferring instead the arms-length approach of formal ballroom moves. But after a little help from the hotel instructor (played by none other than Patrick Swayze from the original Dirty Dancing), she soon becomes comfortable with her partner's hands being drawn over her breasts and clasping her buttocks.
Meanwhile, there's a revolution comin'
Like Swing Kids--an almost equally poor movie about German kids who would happily "Heil Hitler!" as long as they could still jive to Benny Goodman--Dirty Dancing 2 comes across as melodramatic schlock leading up to a grand dance contest on New Year's Eve 1958--the dawn of Castro's uprising.
But a faulty history lesson isn't this film's only concern for family viewing. While the few profanities, a couple of passionate kisses, and some suggestive dancing make this a lightweight PG-13 title; thematic elements may be questionable. Consequences for Katey's lies are muted, and so are the results of an unseen but heavily implied sexual encounter with Javier, not to mention the dangers of a young woman cavorting through darkened streets of the tumultuous city.
The closing scene of the happy American family, ordained as tourists by carrying a bulky movie camera, dancing it up in one of Havana's local clubs while Castro's supporters revel in the streets, is the ultimate cherry to put atop this plastic song and dance routine.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is rated PG-13: for sensuality.
Cast: Diego Luna, Romola Garai, Sela Ward