The notion of the 80s Ending, then, brings me to my recent viewing of BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. I would be lying if I said I didn't go partly for the unique pleasure of being able to approach the box office and say "One for Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, please!" And it's not every day of the week you get to tell people you're going to see a breakdancing movie, so they had that going for it.
I admit that I went primarly to satisfy my curiosity, one that I believe I share with many white people who remember looking at movie marquees in 1984: Just what the heck is an Electric Boogaloo, anyway? The subtitle is the element which has given this film its little niche in 80s pop culture. The title was colorful but incomprehensible to the point of absurdity, at least for those of us who didn't know what it meant. I just knew the movie would explain everything, but I did go in with just a few theories.
Surely, I thought, it's something pretty awesome, like maybe a nightclub (it isn't) or a bad new breakdancer who comes on the scene to challenge Shabba-Doo (it's not) or some cassette tape infused with magical powers so that when you pop it into a ghetto blaster and hoist it high, everybody in the freakin' world stops what they're doing to breakdance and party down.
I think I'm on to something here. I mean, this would give meaning to a lot more incongruous dance numbers, especially the infamous McDonalds Dance Party scene from the horrible ET rip-off MAC & ME.
At any rate, it is my sad duty to report to you that the FILM NEVER TELLS YOU. No! I hear you gasp. Alas, it's true. Moviegoers without prior knowledge of the breakdancing scene leave the theater
Or if you're truly with it, you can go bring up Wikipedia on whatever cool-ass phone you have, right there at the theater, and learn that the Electric Boogaloo is really the style of dance that they're doing in most of the film. Ah-ha! I hear you cry. (I had to wait until I got home before I could look it up because my cool-ass phone dropped its cool a while ago.)
Now that we are infused with such knowledge, we can appreciate the movie for what it truly is: A worthy entry in the pantheon of Lesser 80s Cheese, as well as a first-hand account of the Powers of Breakdancing.
Oh, yes. Breakdancing is powerful stuff, man. As we've already mentioned, it can take an ordinary street and turn it into a bunch of party-loving poppers and lockers. All you need is a reason and your magical Everybody Dance Now cassette. This brings us to meeting Kelly, rich girl from the first movie who teamed up with two street dancers named Ozone and Turbo and danced around a lot and I think overcame obstacles and achieved something. I don't know. I didn't see the first, so I'm not exactly up on my Breakin' canon.
Anyway, Kelly must have Left in the first movie because in the second movie she Comes Back, and her old pals Ozone and Turbo are so happy to have her back that when she stops by The Streets to say hi (the film was mostly shot in East LA, which explains the noticable lack of night scenes) they celebrate by breakdancing. A lot of breakdancing. Someone hoists up a boombox and the crowd of dancers spills out into the street, absorbing the passersby like some crazy-ass breakdancing version of Katamari Damacy. Look! Even the old folks and the construction workers are getting down! Ha ha! That lady cop just danced off after she wrote that dude a ticket!
Okay, it's cute, and it's a staple of almost every music-oriented film since those crazy kids from Fame ran out into the street and jumped on cars and declared that they were gonna learn how to fly high. Breakin' 2 enjoys this concept so much they use it at least three times during the movie. The worstbest example is the scene set in a hospital where the kids go to visit Turbo, who went and fell down three flights of stairs while annoying some construction workers.
Turbo's laid up in a hospital bed with a broken arm and a leg in traction. He doesn't look too good. So his pals stop by to see how he's doing, and seeing as how there's nothing better to do in a hospital room (Turbo doesn't have some landscape poster taped to the ceiling to stare at, even) they decide to breakdance.
This, of course, means the entire hospital begins to dance. It's a giant dance party in the trauma ward! Four Sexy Nurses drop by and begin doing they thang, which involves dancing up to people in wheelchairs or people hobbling around on crutches and performing a few Sexy Breakdancing Moves in front of them. This compels the patients to get up, throw away their shackles of restricted movement, and dance too.
YES. THE POWER OF BREAKDANCING HEALS THE CRIPPLED. You have not lived until you've seen some dude with casts and a headwound doing backspins with great joy. Even Turbo gets into it, ignoring any and all hairline fractures and possible shards of bone. His casts even come off in record time, so that he can dance at the big benefit the kids are holding to save their community center from demolition.
I didn't mention that the kids are trying to save their community center from demolition, did I? This is an 80s film we're talking about, for crying out loud. Of course they're trying to stand up to a greedy developer (whom the audience hissed every time he came on the screen.) They stand up to the bulldozers who show up to tear down the center (which is brightly rainbow colored and called Miracles, solely so that one character can say "It'll take a miracle to save Miracles now!") When the kids stand up on the dozers and begin their moves, the drivers pretty much say "Well we can't tear this down. Let's go back, everybody!"
YES. BREAKDANCING STOPS BULLDOZERS TOO.
I guess I don't really need to tell you how this story ends, though I will mention that it does not involve a freeze-frame to fadeout. (It does end with celebratory balloons flying through the sky, so that's a plus.) The bad guy capitulates way too easily, though; one interview in front of the television cameras and he suddenly generates graciously to the center's renovation fund. I was kind of expecting him to then go back on his word and try one more sneaky attempt to tear the building down, as we've come to expect that from our slimy bad guys, but no. He folds like a house of cards and finishes his plot quickly so the kids can get back to breakdancing.
The dancing in the film is really good, mind you. There's even one Gene Kelly-inspired sequence involving Turbo and a rotating house set, so that he can happily dance on the ceiling after meeting the girl of his dreams. I thought that was very well done, even if the colorful 80s set design implied that Turbo and Ozone apparently live in Punky Brewster's head.
The rest of the film includes multiple montages, dance numbers, and an incredibly non-threatening threat in the form of a rival dance gang who pretty much show up to pester our heroes, who eventually defeat them through one of those dangerous gang dance-offs which crippled LA in the 1980s. There's even a hint of a romance between Kelly and Ozone but like Bollywood heroes, their love is a chaste one and best expressed solely through dance. You cannot ask for better bad 80s cheese, honestly. While the film cut as many corners as it can (it's a Golan-Globus production, how could it not cut corners?) and it carries one of those "community centers save everything that breakdancing can't" messages, it is fairly harmless and doesn't really condescend to the audience. But then again, I guess far less was expected of audiences back then. What a simpler, more innocent time it was.
And if you've seen it, you can then join the club of the proud few who can claim to have actually seen the movie, which gives you slightly more credence when using "Electric Boogaloo" as a tried-and-true comedy reference drop. And that ain't all that bad when you think about it. Is it?