I had been aware of this movie since it was out, though obviously back then I was wayyy too cool to ever go see it, and surely would have not enjoyed it and would have just made fun of it if I had. All the while being the ignorant loser, blind to how amazingly charming this all this.
This movie is a sequel to the less creatively-titled Breakin’ in which [apparently] our main characters met, there was some tepid conflict about staying true to yourself or friends matter more than money or we shouldn’t impose democracy at the point of a gun or some such, there was a lot of dancing, and it all worked out for the best. I haven’t seen the first movie, but it is definitely on my rental list now, though I hear it’s not quite as good as this one.
The opening credits here set the tone, as you have close-ups of a lot of 80s hip-hop icons like spray-painted boom boxes, jangly bracelets and fluorescent colored clothes. And of course tons of strappy belts. Soon enough we’re introduced to our characters from the first movie, Ozone, whose role is assuaged by Shabba-doo, Turbo, portrayed by Mr. Boogaloo Shrimp, and Kelly, played by Lucinda Dickey. It would seem that Kelly has spent the year away at Princeton [uuuuuh-huh], and is now back in L.A. for the summer. She goes to visit Ozone and Turbo, and they are soon joined by a cute, cuddly little rapper [back when rappers could be cute and cuddly and weren’t all trying to look like murderers] who sings a short rap in her honor, which is mixed [apparently using space-age pause-button technology] into the title track, which to my great surprise, is AN AWESOME SONG! The group goes a dancin’ and a prancin’ down the hill through the streets, where policewomen, mailmen, and passing old ladies all join in the dance.
After this scene, two things are apparent: 1) This movie exists on a magical plane in which racial differences are unimportant, fun early hip-hop routinely fills the air, and elaborate dance sequences are likely to break out anytime and anywhere, and because of this, 2) this movie is going to be utterly delightful.
It would seem that evil developers are going to raze Miracles, the idyllic community center where members of minority communities of all ages want nothing more than to dance and make a contribution to civic culture. The developers are going to put up a shopping mall in its place, using the excuse that the community center is not up to building codes. I thought that rather than have to raise $200,000 to remodel the building, someone would examine the method of manipulation used by the developers; declaring a building unsafe in order to drive blacks and Latinos out, but this is never addressed. And if it were, well, there’s be no need to put on a big break dancing show at the end, would there?
So it all builds toward the big show, with quite a lot of plot wrinkles along the way. First, our heroes are involved in a bit of a turf war. They’re just sitting around, when someone exclaims: “Look! It’s the Electro Rockers!” And this group of people distinguished by their penchant for zebra-patterned fuschia bandanas appears, obviously spoiling for a fight. And fight they do—but these progressive kids today settle their differences… through dance. They have a little dance-off/gang war in which the Electro Rockers are bested… but not defeated. What a different world we would live in today if the Bush Administration could only settle political conflicts through the use of rhythmic emphatic gestures and ludicrous preening faces. But hey, if they ain’t gonna use the U.N., they sure as heck ain’t gonna use shoulder spins.
Another subplot is the romantic rivalry between Kelly and some other woman over Ozone’s love. The rival woman looks like she’s about 43, which makes it seem a little strange when she’s oozing all over Ozone, and her stridently bitchy ways are a total hoot. There’s also a Latina love interest for Turbo, and the whole question of whether Kelly is going to jet off to Paris to take a huge career-enhancing role, or whether she’ll give it all up to save the community center and help those disadvantaged kids.
Now, some may say that I see a homoerotic subtext in everything. However, dear reader, what was I to make of the following scene? Turbo is asking Ozone for romantic advice. Ozone gets up to show Turbo some love moves, spending an inordinate amount of time pulling up and adjusting his pants. They then dance with a female dummy, whilst having the fantasy [shown in integrated footage] that the dummy is either Kelly or the Latina girl. The women keep alternating with the dummy, implying that the women are largely interchangeable, and the men grow so excited in their dancing with each other that eventually they violently destroy the female doll, causing its head to explode. At this point the men shrug, and happily begin dancing cheek to cheek with each other.
I don’t judge, I merely observe.
Speaking of homosexuality, this random hunk goes out to the bears:
As the film builds toward it’s wholly unexpected climax at the big show, it starts to reflect Reagan-era ideas of lower class minorities, never more clearly than when one character says “I know what you kids do with money, you do drugs and get stoned.” But the movie succeeds in remaining sunny and optimistic, and doesn’t let such views interfere with the overall lighthearted and exuberant tone.
Shabba-Doo has also graced the films Lambada and Xanadu, and was a backup dancer for Madonna. Lucinda Dickey was a genuine Solid Gold dancer [!], and also appeared in Grease 2! Clearly, this film’s dance resume is solidly intact.
So at the end there’s the big show, wherein guest Ice-T raps: “This is not a party, this is a demonstration, to counteract city hall legislation.” There is a great deal of dancing, though by now it has all started to look somewhat similar and unvaried. No matter. By the end Kelly’s uptight parents are getting down to the electro-rock sound, things work out for the best, and everyone is happy, including you.
Yes! The mixture of good songs, outrageous outfits, general ridiculousness, and a sunny optimism throughout is an extremely potent brew.
BREAKIN' provides the crucial setup for this movie, and is supposed to be quite similar, but not quite as good. It's on my list, as soon as I watch it I'll let you know.
ROLLER BOOGIE has a similar vibe of music-lovin’ teens and a push to save a youth gathering place, though it is a little more sexual and sad for all the actors involved.