Wow, has it already been a year? Well, the time has come again to honor those special films that stick with us. Despite obvious flaws, the films that enter the Hall of Fame and earn the “Best of Yakmala” moniker have the power to entertain in spite of themselves. This year’s list is definitely entertaining, but perhaps in ways that are not always easy to see. Today, we begin with that most infamous of films, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Okay, to be fair, that subtitle is more famous than the film itself. No one knows exactly what an “Electric Boogaloo” is, so the title entices on that alone. Unfortunately, most dismiss the movie sight unseen because of its curious moniker. Better to just slap it on any other sequel title for a quick laugh.
But to actually watch it is to learn that the title is only the first of many wonderful, wacky things that happen in this movie.
A question we often get about the film is “do I have to watch Breakin‘?” I’d say, no, not really. That film has its own merits and a character named Cupcakes (who is sadly missing from Electric Boogaloo). The only things you need to know: neighborhood dancers Ozone and Turbo started a dance team with rich white girl Kelly. They won some sort of competition and she became a legitimate dancer while the two “ethnic” lads descended into madness.
Okay, I’m making that up.
No, I’m not.
The most amazing thing about this film is how easily it lends itself to the psychotic break reading. At its Best of screening, we identified that Turbo’s Latin lady love may be a figment of his imagination; no one but Turbo makes eye-contact with her. (Of course, in our emerging reading of the film, the chica exists so Turbo doesn’t have to face his dubious sexuality and probable attraction to Ozone. This shit’s got layers).
Wait, I think I’m getting ahead of myself. So after working in professional choruses for an indeterminate amount of time, Kelly visits Ozone and Turbo in a part of Los Angeles that might be Lincoln Heights or Highland Park, or Echo Park, or Silver Lake, or Hermon. They tell her that they’ve been teaching kids to dance at a local community center called “Miracles.” Deciding to go over there, the three inspire the whole neighborhood to dance and form an impromptu parade (this will be a running theme in the film). I count this as the film’s first departure from its previously agreed upon reality as everyone in the neighborhood gets hip to the beat. This includes mail carriers and the fuzz. When they get to Miracles, Kelly is warmly accepted and another spontaneous dance scene occurs.
It may surprise you, but there is a complication in the film. A greedy developer I nicknamed “Bob Whiteman” (pronounced: “Witmin”) wants to tear down Miracles and erect a supermarket or shopping center. For argument sake, let’s say it was a Super K-Mart.
Whiteman convinces a corrupt city official to tell the zoning office that the building is structurally unsound and the current tenants — as the building is city property — need to come up with 200 grand for repairs or face Whiteman and his bulldozers. The rest of the films sees the main characters raising funds to save Miracles and coping with their varied mental issues. Oh, they also dance a lot.
I noticed that everyone, the city, the kids, Whiteman, all take the “structurally unsound” spiel at face value. There’s no survey team or people at City Hall who question the claim. It never occurs to Ozone or Kelly to seek a second opinion. I’d like to think Whiteman ordered this proclamation since he and the city official are seen colluding, but I can’t say for sure. Maybe it was Whiteman’s psychotic break.
Whitey-whiteness is a recurring theme in both Breakin’ movies, but its handled more cartoonishly in Electric Boogaloo. Besides Whiteman, Kelly’s parents are always presented as stuffy high class people who disapprove of her dancing and her “street people” friends. Their house is expansive and wood paneled. In another movie, they’d be the parents of the evil frat guy that end up covered in panties or stripper-cake and tut, say “I never” and run from the scene out of embarrassment and, probably, unacknowledged sexual arousal. I’m sure they have a last name, but I dubbed them “The Richingtons.” They are the perfect distillation of early-80s rich whiteness. Or, at the very least, the way we’ve mythologized that last gasp of naked, brazen, old money behavior. Ah, if only Fitzgerald could’ve lived to see the nadir of that era in the form of dopey and obvious punchlines in “snobs versus slobs” movies.
I wonder if he would’ve been hep to break dancing?
So, let’s talk about the thing that really sets this movie above its predecessor and pushes it into “Best Of” territory. Simply stated, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo only makes sense if the characters are constantly disassociating from reality and believe the whole world will dance with them if only invited. There is a lot of dancing in the film. A. Lot. It happens as Kelly, Ozone, and Turbo walk down the street to Miracles. It happens when a rival “dance gang” wants to rumble with Ozone and his crew. It happens when they strut to city hall. It happens, most absurdly, when Ozone and Kelly come to visit an injured Turbo in the hospital. As Justin notes in his review, there is a look of panic on the faces of many of the patients. The shared delusion of the dancers does not overcome all ailments.
I suppose, at a scriptwriting level, the scenes we identify as psychotic breaks really indicate a conflict of tone. The film was rushed to theaters following the success of Breakin‘ and really can’t decide what it wants to be. Usually, that would sink a film. In the case of Breakin’ 2, it’s the very thing that gives it life. It infects you with a special neon madness that makes you forgive things you wouldn’t allow any other sane movie to get away with.
Both Breakin films were produced by The Cannon Group, also known as Golan-Globus. If Yakmala has a patron producer, it would be Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. The list of Cannon films we’ve screened and enshrined on our approved list includes The Apple, Over the Top, Cobra, Ninja III: The Domination, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe. Only Stallone rivals their output of ready-made Yakmala movies — they even worked together on one! Looking at their complete filmography for this write-up, I’ve noticed one or two more flicks we need to screen.
It’s also one of the breeziest “Best of” flicks by far. If you’ve never journeyed down the path of questionable quality, this might be the best one to start with. You’ll be glad you did.