This highly unnecessary remake of 1987's Dirty Dancing sets the characters in Havana in 1958, where, as our young migr American heroine Katie (Romola Garai) says, "Nobody was aware that Fidel Castro was planning to overthrow the government of President Batista." She falls in with the young, white, rich preppie set at the hotel where her family lives, but becomes more intrigued by the Cuban busboy, Javier (Diego Luna), who eventually teaches her to dance for the upcoming big competition.

With an enervated screenplay (including uncredited work by "ethnic specialist" Ron Bass of Joy Luck Club and How Stella Got Her Groove Back fame) and indifferent direction by Guy Ferland, this attempt to wring more money from a new generation has the glossy, tired feel of a Lifetime Channel TV movie. The white characters in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights are faultlessly groomed in some designer's notion of '50s chic and totally conceived in cardboard. The Cubans are uniformly sweaty, animalistic creatures who only live to shake their tatas to the next merengue. The movie is full of jarring anachronisms put there presumably to appeal to history-blind kids, like hip-hop music in the hotel bar or calling a girl "hot," which in 1958 would have been more cause for a slap than a smile. The inclusion of Cuban political violence is pathetically developed and staged with seemingly only about three overworked extras.

Garai has the full-lipped, angelic beauty of the young Shirley Knight, but none of that actress' intensity or talent. (Her line readings are trs flat.) And whereas Jennifer Grey's unconventional looks and manner accounted for much of the original Dirty Dancing's appeal, Garai is such an obvious babe that the material loses a lot of empathic tension and flavor. Luna retains his doll-like prettiness from Y Tu Mam√° Tambin and does what he can with his stereotyped character, but, apart from an undeniable dancing flair, he doesn't generate much interest. Both he and Garai seem eminently capable, choreographically speaking, but the rapid-fire MTV cutting almost completely obfuscates their work. John Slattery plays Katie's father more like one of her young suitors, but Sela Ward does provide some welcome wryness as her mom. Patrick Swayze is kind of embarrassing, all tight torso and even tighter facial features, reprising his original Dirty Dancing role of Johnny Castle, newly turned up as the hotel dance instructor.

-David Noh