Cannon Films/MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Directed by Joel Silberg
Produced by Allen DeBevoise/David Zito
Screenplay by Charles Parker/Allen DeBevoise/Gerald Scaife
Music by Michael Boyd/Gary Remal
Cinematography by Hanania Baer
Edited by Larry Bock/Gib Jaffe/Vincent Sklena
Those of you who have listened to episodes of Better In the Dark where Tom Deja and I talk about 1980s movies already know how I feel about BREAKIN’. I’ve called it the “Citizen Kane” of breakdance movies. Not that there’s a whole lotta breakdancing movies as a genre to compare it to. But there’s many reasons why we still remember and love BREAKIN’ for what it does. Because what it does it does extraordinarily well and does it with no pretension whatsoever.
Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) is struggling to make it as a dancer in L.A. Along with her friend Adam (Phineas Newborn III) she studies jazz dancer under the tutelage of Franco (Ben Lokey) who believes in strict discipline and classicism when it comes to dance. He also has the hots for Kelly. Kelly wants to be a success and become a professional dancer but there are lines she will not cross. But she does cross one line when she becomes friends with street dancers Ozone (Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones) and Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers). They may not be classically trained dancers but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the best. And they most certainly are. Except when it comes to battling their dance rivals Electro Rock.Ozone and Turbo could more than handle Electro Rock when it was just Poppin’ Pete (Timothy Solomon) and Pop N’ Taco (Bruno Falcon). But then they add a chick, Lil’ Coco (Vidal Rodriguez) and that changes the whole game. It changes it even more when Kelly offers to team up with Ozone and Turbo, forming a group called TKO that incorporates her jazz dance/classic moves with their street dance/breakdance. The results are a whole lot of fun to watch.
And make no mistake; there a solid reason why BREAKIN’ has lasted this long and is so highly regarded as a dance film. Well, by me at least. It’s just downright Fun to watch. And a large part of that is because I was there when all this was going on and it’s a way for me to revisit my past. My friends and I must have gone to see BREAKIN’ at least half a dozen times in the theaters (remember this is 1984. You could see a triple feature on Manhattan’s 42end St. for three bucks)
I will admit a large part of the reason why we went back to see it repeatedly was Lucinda Dickey. No great actress, she. But damn, she was smokin’ hot. In fact, none of the leads in BREAKIN’ were great actors. But they were authentic and honest and they had charisma and chemistry. Adolfo Quinones and Michael Chambers are like the Green Hornet and Kato of breakdancing. I love the fact that they unabashedly dress like superheroes. Because in their minds, that’s exactly what they are. And they made me believe they were. The relationship between the three characters is what drives a lot of the movie and they sell it. Not through their acting but through their personalities. That gives BREAKIN’ an almost documentary feel at times.
But then there are other scenes such as Boogaloo Shrimp’s dance with a broom that is a homage to a similar scene Fred Astaire did in one of his movies. Boogaloo Shrimp’s breakdance homage to that scene is just as exhilarating and vital as the original. It’s the very definition of how one piece of art can influence another.
This is the movie that infamously has Jean-Claude Van Damme as an uncredited dancer. And Christopher McDonald wins the “Who The Hell let HIM In This Movie?” award for this one.
That’s not to say that I can’t find any fault with the movie. Lucinda Dickey and Adolfo Quinones can’t sell the heavy emotional scenes between their characters. And I chalk it up to their simply not having enough experience to do so. But there is one scene where they do sell the emotion. Ozone takes Kelly to watch some street dancers. One of them is a kid on crutches. Despite the fact he does not have the use of his legs, he dances. Ozone points to him and says; “THAT is what dancing is all about. Look at his face.” A face that expresses nothing but pure joy. And that is exactly what BREAKIN’ is about. It’s about the pure joy of dancing. You want to honor what BREAKIN’ represents? Then get up and dance while you’re watching it. When the sound track plays a piece of music like Al Jarreau’s “Boogie Down” or Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” get up and dance your ass off right along with the characters.
1 hr. 30 minutes