Warning: There may be more spoilers than you’re used to from me. The plot points are just too much fun not to talk about them, but ye have been warned.
AKA Breakdance: The Movie
Australia – 3 May 1984
USA – 4 May 1984
Netherlands – 30 May 1984
Sweden – 8 June 1984
Finland – 29 June 1984
West Germany – 6 July 1984
France – 11 July 1984
Ah, let’s step into the wayback machine again, shall we? This time let’s set it for the spring of 1984. The place, my beloved Los Angeles, California, USA. It was a glorious time. Ronald Reagan was President. It was morning in America. Palm trees were swaying. The whole city was gearing up for the Olympics. It was a great time to be alive.
But in one corner of LA, someone was sad. Her name was Kelly (Lucinda Dickey), a struggling dancer who’s “pushing 20″ but unable to make a living at her chosen profession so she’s eking out a living as a waitress for a meeeeean boss.
One thing you need to understand about The Breakin’ Saga is that the characters aren’t subtle. The good guys (and girls) are really good and the bad guys (and girls) are really bad. Not a lot of shades of grey here, with possibly one exception toward the end of the second movie.
Kelly takes dancing lessons from an egotistical teacher named Franco. Franco is a traditional jazz dancer who demands discipline and professionalism from his students. He also makes another demand from Kelly. Apparently when this movie was made the stereotype police hadn’t yet issued the edict that all dancers have to be gay.
I’ll say this about Lucinda Dickey, she makes an impression. With her short hair, leotards, and leg warmers, she’s pretty much the embodiment of all those 80′s ladies that rocked our world back in the day.
Anyway, Kelly escapes Franco’s clutches and goes with her gay (there it is) friend Adam to meet some of his friends at Venice Beach. By the way, the dude who plays Adam is black, but he has THE whitest name possible: Phineas Newborn III. Hwat? His real name is probably Tyrone Jamal Mofocko but he changed it so as not to scare whitey.
Ozone and Turbo are dancers, really great dancers of a new kind: Street dancers, breakers. Kelly is blown away by their energy and their moves. Adam convinces her to join them and they’re all having a good time until (cue the ominous music) the bad guys show up. Two other breakers challenge Ozone and Turbo to a dance off.
So there they are…dancing and fighting…with their dance moves. Because apparently that’s what young street kids did in 1984 before they discovered guns. This is the part where it gets confusing because apparently O&T lose the contest to these guys. I don’t know how you would know that, it’s not like Nigel Lithgoe is around, but everybody’s all “Damn” and “You got served” and stuff so apparently O&T lost. They are understandably despondent, but not too despondent to notice that Kelly is an attractive young thing who deserves a “street name.” She is dubbed “Special K.”
Know who else was on the beach that day? Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was his first appearance in a US film. He played a very enthusiastic spectator watching Kelly and Adam dance with Ozone and Turbo. He went uncredited but, even at the beginning of his storied career he wasn’t just good, he was Van Damme good.
Speaking of things that are Van Damme good, we should probably discuss the distributor of the Breakin’ Saga, Cannon Films. From the early to mid 80s, when it was run by Israeli moguls Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the name Cannon Films was synonymous with quality. Cannon was willed into being by Chuck Norris himself, and aside from producing his movies, Cannon’s canon also includes Cyborg with the afore-mentioned Van Damme, Over the Top (a thrilling Stallone movie about arm wrestling), and the Christopher Reeve Superman movie that nobody saw.
Anyway, back to our story. The next day Ozone and Turbo go to Franco’s dance studio to see Kelly and Adam. But mostly Kelly. When they come in Kelly and the others are dancing, but Franco is in the other room. Kelly says something to the effect of “Hey! Great to see you again! You better get outa here, if Franco sees you he’s going to shit The Berlin Wall.” O&T ignore that advice because the music and the dancing that the others are doing is so “fresh.”
“Fresh?” Kelly asks. I guess in 1984 white girls who had not considered suicide when the rainbow was sufficient did not know the term “fresh” as applied to something other than food. Turbo gets out on the dance floor and starts popping fresh. This is the point where a movie can either surprise you, or do exactly what you expect it to do. The movie did exactly what I expected it to do. I call it “When a Movie Does Exactly What I Expect It to Do.”
Note to self: Try to think of a better title.
As Turbo is popping and locking and breaking, Franco comes back into the room and…wait for it…stops the music by dragging the needle across the record player. Sccccrrrrrraaaaaaaatttccchhh!!!
For those of you too young to remember LP records, we never did that on purpose. It ruined the record and the needle. It’s the kind of thing that only happens in movies. I call them “Things That Only Happen in Movies.”
Geez, I really need to work on those.
So there’s Franco, steaming mad, the music has stopped, but Turbo keeps dancing. He hasn’t heard that the music is no longer playing? The music that he’s dancing to? Priceless.
So Franco gets all uppitty about these “amateurs” stinking up his precious studio and kicks them out. Poor little b-boys, nobody understands them. Isn’t there one place where they can go where they can feel at home?
Yeah. Turns out there is. In the movie, and apparently in real life, there was a club called Radiotron in LA’s MacArthur Park. You know, the place where Richard Harris and Donna Summer both left the cake out in the rain. I hate when that happens. Anyway, Radiotron was apparently one of the hot spots of hip-hop and breaking culture. Kelly and Adam go to Radiotron to check out O&T’s moves. Things are going great until that same rival dance crew from Venice Beach shows up. They are called Electro Rock and they’re bad. And by “bad” I mean “good.” In a bad way. What I mean is they’re fresh. Oh shit, I don’t know.
So Electro Rock challenges O&T to another dance off, saying “You guys want us? Then come and get us.” But not in a gay way, in a very macho way. It’s very confusing. So they’re dancing with, or against each other. O&T are getting in the other guy’s faces, chest bumping them, pulling their jackets off. It’s all going very well…I guess. Again, how can you tell?
Turbo says to Ozone, “Man, we wore them punks out!” But then suddenly, the two punks reach behind them and grab a girl! With a unibrow! And she starts dancing! Can you do that? Why isn’t there a penalty flag on the field?
Well, apparently you can do that. Unibrow Girl was just too much for our heroes and once again they slink off with their little b-boy tails between their legs.
Oh, by the way…the Breakin’ Saga was the feature film debut of a young man named Tracy Marrow, better known as Ice-T. Long before he advocated killing cops and then started playing one on TV, here he is emceeing the festivities at Radiotron. Ice-T is not proud of his place in film history, however, describing both the Breakin’ films and his performances in them as “wack.” He needs to be re-educated on the definition of the term “wack.” I would rather watch an endless loop of The Breakin’ Saga for all of eternity than to sit through one episode of Ice Loves Coco.
Anyway…back to our story: The next day O&T are despondent that they lost to Electro-Rock when Kelly and Adam show up. Kelly basically tells them that she’s a girl, she can dance, and – as an added bonus – she has two perfectly formed eyebrows. Ozone, of course, is all up in that idea because he would like get all up in *ahem*. Turbo needs to be convinced, but that doesn’t take too long because it’s about time this movie had a movie montage. At the end – or somewhere in the middle – of the montage, their new dance crew is born. They shall be called TKO for Turbo, Special K, and Ozone of course. And it is good.
OK, I’ve got to move this along. Some stuff happens. Kelly and Ozone look at each other, but they never do anything. Meanwhile Kelly has gotten an agent who doesn’t approve of her dancing with those street dancers. And he tells her of this disapproval while standing in front of a poster for West Side Story. I would congratulate the movie on the irony, but I’m not sure that it was intentional.
Kelly takes her agent, James, to Radiotron so he can see what great dancers her friends are. There is again a battle for dance floor dominance and this time, because TKO has a girl who doesn’t have a caterpillar living on her forehead, they win.
James is won over and sets out to get TKO into an audition for a big dance show. Sadly, the stuffed shirts that run the contest won’t consider admitting *shudder* street dancers. Oh merciful heavens no. Our old nemesis Franco (Boo! Hiss!) has bad mouthed TKO all over town. There’s no way they’ll get in.
James convinces TKO to dress up in top hats, coats, and tails and he passes them off as “The Allegro Vivace Dance Trio.” Franco spots them, however, and tells the judges that they are actually stinky smelly breakdancers so the stuffy judges (with British accents of course) won’t led them audition. But TKO tear off their coats and sleeves and start dancing anyway.
I’ll save the result of this audition for you to discover, should you choose to.
Now that I’ve thoroughly mocked the story to smithereens, who cares about the story? It’s a musical and, like the musicals of the 40s and 50s, you just have to suspend disbelief and go with it. The story has holes, the acting is nothing to write in your blog about, but the music is fun, the dancing is pretty incredible, and it’s a nice trip in the wayback machine.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
I’m giving Breakin’ a score of…
Can’t you just see the little dudes spinning on their heads?
Random Quote Whore Quote:
Breakin’ is a coarsest, extempore, buckaroo of a movie! Lucinda Dickey is ultramicroscopic!!!
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo
Lucinda Dickey – Kelly
Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones – Ozone
Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers – Turbo
Jo De Winter – Mrs. Bennett
John Christy Ewing – Mr. Bennett
Peter MacLean – Mr. Douglas
Ice-T – Radiotron Rapper
USA – 19 December 1984
France – 2 January 1985
Australia – 3 January 1985
Italy – 31 January 1985
Netherlands – 14 February 1985
Sweden – 15 March 1985
At the end of Breakin’ Ice-T is rapping about how great hip-hop is or something (hey, at least it wasn’t about killing cops) and then he says, “This movie’s through but watch for Part 2.” Yep. Breakin’ is part of that rarified group of movies – like Back to the Future Part II and most of the 007 films – that advertised it’s own sequel.
As this movie starts, Kelly is a frustrated chorus girl in some show. Not sure if she’s on Broadway or LA, but she’s not happy. When the show ends she goes home to her parent’s palatial mansion to pout.
Oh yeah. Remember in the first movie when it was established that Kelly’s family is rich? No? That’s because they didn’t. This is a new piece of information introduced conveniently for the sequel. I call that “A New Piece…never mind, even I’m getting bored with this bit.
After Kelly’s dad criticizes her for her choice of profession and the street hoodlums she hangs out with, the soft music comes up and she reminisces about her time with TKO…so long ago. Well, a few months ago anyway.
She drives back to the hood to see her old friends, and finds out that they’ve been busy refurbishing an old building and turning it into a community center called “The Miracle.” In the first movie musical moment, they take Special K down the street to see The Miracle. Did I say “movie musical moment?” Yeah. Unlike the first movie and other musicals of the era, like Flashdance and Footloose where the music is presented in a slighty more realistic way, this one goes full on fantasy. The gang starts down the street dancing to the beat, then old ladies, telephone repairmen, and cops join in.
When they get to The Miracle, an annoying mime called Magician shows Kelly around. Dance and gymnastics classes, boxing lessons, arts and crafts, and just in case you didn’t get the hint Ozone says, “This place is great for the kids, Kelly.” Oh. Really? Well, thanks for the heads up.
Kelly decides that this is where she belongs, so she starts teaching there too. But, of course, there is trouble out there. This time the villain isn’t a full-of-himself dance teacher or a rival dance crew (although they’re still around). This time there’s an evil developer named Douglas who wants to tear down The Miracle and put up a parking lot. Or supermarket. Does it matter?
This guy is really evil. He only cares about property values and money, he doesn’t care about keeping a bunch of street urchins out of trouble. He’s evil I tell ya. Think Donald Trump with better hair but less personality. Douglas’ stooge in the city council convinces the city that the building should be condemned and so $200,000 needs to be raised to bring it up to code. Do you hear the phrase, “Let’s put on a show” coming on? Yeah.
Now, is it just me? Or does Ozone wear more leather than an actual cow? Seriously, he could probably sell his leather collection and pay that $200,000 himself. And is that a Civil War hat?
Yeah, because one thing we know from studying history: Guys like Ozone and Turbo would really have prospered under the Confederate States of America.
Like I mentioned, Electro-Rock is still around and they “rule the dance floor” at Radiotron now. There’s a new guy who seems to be the leader, Unibrow Girl is back but I don’t recognize the other two dudes from the first movie. I guess their contract negotiations fell apart. Kind of like Richard Castellano who played Clemenza in The Godfather. He was asking too much and Coppolla had to make Godfather II: Electric Boogaloo without him.
There are definitely some loose ends in this flick. They seem to be setting up a rivalry between K and a girl named Rhonda for Ozone’s affection. Again, it goes nowhere. There is one scene where Kelly and Ozone are in her apartment eating what may be post-coital pizza, but we’re never sure. Ozone has his shirt off, but that might be just so he doesn’t get tomato sauce on his leather.
In this movie Turbo is the one who ends up getting lovey dovey with a cute little Latina from the neighborhood. His rapture for her leads to a pretty impressive sequence when he dances up the walls and on the ceiling two years before Lionel Richie but 33 years after Fred Astaire.
Meanwhile, Kelly gets a chance to audition for a big show in Paris. She aces this job by going to the audition dressed, as Tasha Robinson from AV Club puts it, “like she’s arrived from the late stages of Showgirls.” Her outfit really is something. And by something I mean almost nothing. I would post a picture of it, but it would be beneath the dignity of this blog to post a picture of a scantily clad woman.
That, and the fact that I couldn’t find one.
The gang go to a City Council meeting with signs and stuff. Oddly that doesn’t work. They then try to disrupt the demolition workers. Turbo steals one of the worker’s lunchbox and runs away with it. That brings the whole thing to a halt because work absolutely can’t proceed without that one dude’s lunch. But things take a turn for the worst when Turbo falls down the stairs and ends up in the hospital in a coma.
This turn of events leads to Kelly deciding not to go to Paris. The gang all gather around Turbo’s hospital bed begging him to wake up. It all looks hopeless until the Latina shows up and gives Turbo the kiss of love. This leads to a musical fantasy sequence that has to be seen to be believed.
I could go on but I won’t. The ridiculous piles upon the absurd. But it’s all in good fun. Do the good guys win? Is evil vanquished? What do you think?
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo doesn’t really add much to the original, except throwing out any existing logic and a catchy title that should be added to all sequels. My suggestion, if you’re having an 80s costume party these two movies should be running in the background in a continuous loop. But just to watch them alone in your skinny tie, jacket with the sleeves rolled up, and Converse Hi-Tops like I did, I don’t recommend it.
The best I can give B2EB is a…
Dancing Observer/Brain Guy
Random Quote Whore Quote:
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is a handwoven, pectinate, maintainor of a movie! Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones is well!!!
Closing Love Theme:
Your Closing Love Theme comes from Chaka Khan and her hit from the same year as The Breakin’ Saga, I Feel For You. Not only is it from 1984, it also features Shabba-Doo, Shrimp, and lots of the other dancers from the movie. I think Unibrow Girl is even in there somewhere. Enjoy!