Laugh it up, wise guy, but this blockbuster 1987 musical -- playing across the country this week in a 20th-anniversary edition with extra footage and new cast interviews -- remains one of our favorite movies of the 1980s. In the role that should have made her a Streisand-caliber star, Jennifer Grey is Baby, the pampered teenage princess who blossoms during a sultry 1960s summer at a Borscht Belt resort in the Catskills; Patrick Swayze is the swivel-hipped, lower-caste dance instructor who awakens her womanhood. Here, dance is sex, power, love, and a hellacious class leveler; maybe that's why the slinky ballroom couplings are so charged with heat. Or maybe it's because the late dancer/director Emile Ardolino filmed them so painstakingly, with such emphasis on intertwined bodies and heightened emotion. Or maybe it's because Grey gives such a marvelous, deeply empathetic portrayal of dawning passion and conscience. Whatever. Of course it's silly in places -- repeat after me: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" -- but you'd have to be a real sourpuss not to love this movie at least a little. Besides, has there ever been a bad movie that started with the Ronettes' majestic "Be My Baby"? With Cynthia Rhodes as the obligatory bad girl, Jerry Orbach, Jack Weston, and tap-dance legend Charles "Honi" Coles; Eleanor Bergstein wrote the fondly observed script.
Emile ArdolinoJennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston, Jane Brucker, Kelly Bishop, Lonny Price, Max CantorEleanor BergsteinLinda GottliebVestron Pictures