Saturday, April 30, 2005

Review: Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)


Kelly is an up-and-coming young dancer in California who is just wrapping up a gig in the chorus line of a musical. Her extremely rich and grotesquely uncool parents want her to give up dancing and go to an ivy league school, but Kelly has other plans. She decides to go down to the 'hood (much to her mom and dad's horror) to meet up with her old friends Ozone and Turbo, whom she met back in the original Breakin' movie.

Ozone and Turbo are breakdancers, and evidently they live in the breakdancing district of L.A. because that's what every single person in the neighborhood is doing. From traffic cops to little old ladies, everybody's popping and locking like there's no tomorrow. Ozone and Turbo have been working in a local community center called Miracles. It's a place where kids can get off the streets and get involved in some healthy physical activity like, oh, say, breakdancing.

Sadly though, there's big trouble in boogaloo city. The old building where Miracles is located has some structural problems and it's going to take $200,000 to fix it up. On top of that, there's an evil building contractor who's just itching to tear the place down and put up a Sam's Club. As everybody already knows, there's only one way to raise $200,000 and save a community center full of breakdancers - put on a show!

Meanwhile, a lot of unrelated things seem to be happening. Kelly gets offered a part in a big musical production that's opening in Paris. A bunch of rival dancers called the Electro Rock gang is trying to take over the neighborhood. Ozone's ex-girlfriend is fuming with jealousy over his relationship with Kelly. Turbo is in love with a girl named Lucia who doesn't speak English. Holy subplot, Batman, what the heck is going on?!

Well, to make a long (and confusing) story short, Kelly takes a pass on Paris to stay and help save Miracles; the Electro Rock gang decide to stop the aggressive behavior and help out as well; Ozone's ex throws a few hissy fits in Kelly's direction but Kelly stands up for herself; and Turbo gets advice from Ozone and Kelly which allows him to dance his way into Lucia's heart despite the language barrier.

With all those loose ends neatly tied up, the Miracles dance-a-thon goes on as scheduled. Kelly's parents happen to see a news report about it on their inexplicably small t.v. and realize that maybe their daughter isn't completely throwing her life away after all. They hurry down to Miracles and write a fat check that puts the fundraiser over the top. There is joyous rioting in the streets and the breakdancing continues into the night (or at least into the credits).


Ah, breakdancing - the craze that swept the U.S.A. back in the 80's, causing millions to put squares of cardboard down on the sidewalk and try to copy the funky moves featured in films like Electric Boogaloo. Primarily this resulted in slipped discs, cracked pelvises and broken necks, which may explain why the breakdancing movement didn't enjoy the longevity it deserved. As one who remembers well those heady days I can attest to the fact that a headspin is not as easy as it looks.

Seeing as how trying to actually breakdance may well prove fatal, it seems much safer to sit on the couch with a bag of Cheetos and watch a movie about it. This helps to explain the preponderance of breakdancing movies during the early- to mid-1980's. Electric Boogaloo definitely has dancing - you've got to give it that. As a matter of fact, the plot often feels like it's getting in the way of the dancing segments. That being the case I'm not sure why the screenwriters decided to include enough subplots for three of four movies. Just about every musical and dance-related film is pilfered here, from West Side Story to Flashdance. The cliches are trotted out at high speed and without a hint of embarrassment.

When you're casting a dance movie I'm sure one of the most difficult questions you face is whether to hire actors who can dance a little or dancers who can act a little. Electric Boogaloo employes both types - I'd say Ozone and Kelly fall in the former category while Turbo is more in the latter. Not to say that Ozone and Kelly are bad dancers - they do a pretty good job - but some of the extras display much more impressive moves. Turbo's acting is pretty rough, but he's got talent in the dance department. I do wish the characters of Ozone and Turbo had been given nicknames as cool as the ones used by the actors who portray them - Ozone is played by Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones; Turbo by Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers. Even the dullest script could become entertaining if the characters had names like Boogaloo Shrimp.

I love the cardboard-cutout villains in this movie. Mr. Douglas (the building contractor who wants to pave over Miracles) is such a stereotypical bad-guy that you can intuit everything there is to know about him the first instant he appears onscreen. He's going to be greedy, cold-hearted, mildly racist, and obsessed with his public image - pretty much the standard model villain for this type of film. The 80's were an especially bad time to be a rich old white guy - you were automatically pegged as evil by anyone under 30. Of course, now that we have terrorists to worry about everybody's stopped watching the rich old white guys, which is kind of scary if you think about it.

It's hard to say exactly when the nadir of 1980's fashion occurred, but based on this film you could make a pretty strong argument for 1984. Some of my favorite fashion statements from Electric Boogaloo include the following: a leather Civil-War style hat with furry tails attached; a belt made out of handcuffs; a fedora with the top torn out and poofy 80's hair sticking through; rhinestone-encrusted fingerless gloves; huge mirrored wraparound sunglasses; pants baggy enough to store watermelons in; and of course, the ultimate accessory: a ghetto-blaster the size of a Honda Civic. By the way, I don't care how macho you are - any man who wears a pastel, cut-off, belly-exposing t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up is going to look unbelievably gay.

Final Analysis

Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo made me want to throw on some parachute pants and backspin the night away. Sure it stretches the thinnest of plots over an unstable framework of dance routines and features some unbearably hammy performances by the lead actors, but at least watching this film is less likely to result in serious injury than doing the worm. Not recommended for rich old white guys.


At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bad movie, to be sure, but more painful than fun. The feel good vibrations of this movie are excruciating to my cynical sensibilities!

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


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