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I Don’t Wanna Havana

After watching all 80 minutes of the tepid remake Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights , I can tell you that I did not have the time of my life-this I swear-and I owe it all to … well, I guess everyone involved is to blame.

Directed by Guy Ferland and set on the eve of the Castro revolution, Havana Nights does little to improve or build upon the 1987 original. Diego Luna plays Javier, a lowly waiter at a posh Cuban hotel, where he meets Katey (Romola Garai), the daughter of a rich Ford executive recently transferred to the tumultuous island. They bond over their mutual love of dancing. She is seduced by the freedoms of Cuban rhythm; he must learn the structure of ballroom boogie so they can win a contest with a prize of $5,000 and a free trip to the States.

There is no doubt that Mr. Luna is a sexy little Mexican, but he lacks the oomph of the original star, Patrick Swayze (who appears in a cameo as a sage dance instructor). The blond bombshell Ms. Garai simply towers over the little lad. Wasn’t Jennifer Grey’s pre-nose-job, frizzed-hair averageness a large part of the first Dirty Dancing ‘s charm?

Ms. Grey and Mr. Swayze had sexual tension in front of the camera, which might have arisen from their real tension on the set. They were the most unlikely of dance partners, and their fiery energy permeated every undulation of their bodies. Unfortunately, in the remake, this dynamic is replaced by a facile lasciviousness.

If there’s any silver lining to this dark cloud of a project, it’s that it makes the success of the original Dirty Dancing actually appear like a result of talent and good acting. Did I just write that?

[ Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004), PG-13, 105 min., $26.98]

Teen Toon

A qua Teen Hunger Force : This show sounds like a hodgepodge of non sequiturs, and indeed it is. Yet it’s currently the most compelling bit of programming on the Cartoon Network’s nightly Adult Swim .

The main characters are Frylock, a floating carton of French fries with a goatee and special powers that allow him to shoot a laser beam from his eyes; Master Shake, a hapless milkshake with a voice that puts Jerry Lewis to shame; and Meatwad, a meatball with the mind of a 4-year-old who likes to dance to rap music. According to the opening montage, they were supposed to be a motley crew of crime fighters. But the show is actually about their unique living situation: It seems that comprising the contents of a Happy Meal does not necessarily make for a happy home.

In the first season, the Force encounters fumbling space invaders with bad German accents saying things like, “Do you see how my mind works? It’s like a laser.” They discover a mummy in their basement who threatens to put a curse on Frylock if the latter doesn’t hug him.

The second season (both are available on DVD) advances these themes with an alien that arrives at the Force’s doorstep in search of a job in retail. He speaks Japanese and urinates like a sprinkler. Other highlights include Carl, the surly next-door neighbor, and a grotesque creation called the Universal Remonster.

At its best, Aqua Teen Hunger Force dispenses with plot altogether. Truly the sum of its characters and their individual antics, it’s a strong contender to replace The Simpsons among the adolescent cognoscenti. Trust us … er, I mean them!

[ Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Season Two , NR, $29.98]

Pitt of Despair

ThetroublewithBernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers is not the perfunctory display of incest, nor the unrelenting fixation on adolescent genitalia, nor the terrifically overdetermined performances, nor the pseudo-informed arguments about ” le cinema .” No, the trouble with The Dreamers is that one is supposed to accept Michael Pitt, who plays an American exchange student in Paris, as the film’s rational core.

Happily degenerate, Mr. Pitt stumbles through the film unknowingly mumbling a line here or there, eyeing the camera anxiously from the sidelines. His spine sags, just like his limp lower lip droops, but the responsibility of upholding the story’s moral vertebrae has been foolishly placed in his sweaty palms.

The protagonists of The Dreamers are too callow to attempt anything like the inside-scraping performance of Marlon Brando in Mr. Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris . Mr. Pitt, who was inaccurately pronounced the next Leonardo DiCaprio, proves himself capable of little more than shedding his clothes at the drop of a hat.

The esteemed director has a tendency to become too enamored of his subjects, allowing them to run away with his films. In Mr. Brando’s case, it proved miraculous; in the case of these wayward kids, it doesn’t. The film conveys little beyond the wanton abandon of young people who are not yet able to move beyond their own simple desires and erroneously constructed belief systems.

[ The Dreamers (2003), NC-17, 115 min., $29.90]

-Jessica Joffe DVD’s, Videos, TiVo, Downloadables