Cheesy movies are a special joy. Despite an earnest attempt to create compelling stories, filmmakers often miss the mark. Some movies turn out simply mediocre. Others become entertaining in spite of their flaws or authorial intent. They become cheesy. In Your Weekend Cheesy Movie, we’ll examine some of these misguided efforts for what they fail at achieving and what they manage to do right.
This week: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo
It’s time for another Golan-Globus classic! As mentioned before, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were cousins from Isreal who brought their particular vision of American movies to the United States in the early 1980s by buying The Cannon Group; a film production house and distributor best known for importing Swedish skin flicks into the country and producing cheap horror movies. The Golan-Globus version of Cannon continued in this vein by making movies like the Happy Hooker series in the early part of their stewardship, but Golan always wanted to make more legitimate pictures. Or, at the very least, make a hit.
And a hit arrived with Breakin’, a film about b-boys and the white girl who invades their space. Inspired, apparently, when Golan’s daughter saw some boys dancing on the Venice, CA boardwalk — though it is possible Golan also saw the documentary Breakin’ and Enterin’ — it presaged an interest in the danceform. It also narrowly beat the Orion Pictures rival production Beat Street to theaters in 1984. But having some clue that this thing was going to work, Cannon boldly announced at the end of Breakin’ that its stars — Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones, Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers, and Lucinda Dickey — would return in a sequel: Electric Boogaloo!
Produced and released within a year of Breakin’s debut, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo became infamous in the years that followed more for its subtitle, which became synonymous with wacky or unnecessary sequels, than anything in the movie itself. Which is sort of a shame as the film has plenty going for it. Well, plenty of cheesy goodness anyway. Set a few months after the events of Breakin’, Kelly (Dickey) returns to Ozone (Quinones) and Turbo’s (Chambers) neighborhood to see little has changed except that the pair are helping out a nearby community center. After Ozone and Turbo inspire the neighborhood to dance-walk to the center, they learn the property is under threat by a developer who wants to turn the land into a K-Mart or other such big box store. For a moment, dear reader, recall a time when K-Mart was a dominate force in retail.
Since the film is meant to appeal to teenagers, our three heroes attempt to raise the cash to save the center by taking various odd jobs. Kelly also tries to appeal to her parents for help, but since they are portrayed as tut-tutting upper-crusty Brentwood elites, they’re more critical of her friendship with poor black kids than appreciative that she has a cause.
In the midst of all of this, though, Ozone, Turbo and Kelly also take on a … well, we’ll call them a “dance gang” who menace our heroes at clubs and on the streets. It somehow threatens their efforts to save the community center and Turbo’s new-found romance with a neighborhood girl; one who may be a figment of his imagination as she never really interacts with anyone else.
And if this sounds like a bog-standard teener movie from the 1950s, that’s part of the charm. Being immigrants, Golan, Globus and director Sam Firstenberg all rely on the tropes they saw in those sorts of films to build a narrative around the legitimate artistry of Quinones and Chambers. The pair were amazing performers and the movie’s main job is to showcase their dance talents. But considering the shabby structure Cannon and Firstenberg build upon, getting the kids into dancing situations is, occasionally, insane.
One such moment occurs when Turbo appears to break one of his legs after an altercation with the rival dance gang. After a few hours of recuperation in a hospital, Ozone, Kelly and his new girlfriend come to cheer him up. The visit inspires Turbo to start a beat which gets Ozone and Kelly dancing, which in turns gets nurses, patients and even surgeons to join in. The scene is madness even as it is joyous: a reoccurring element of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
But whether Chambers is dancing on the ceiling or the evil businessman openly gloats about his development project, one thing that keeps the movie entertaining is just how earnest it is. In fact, that’s something you see in a lot of Firstenberg’s films for Cannon; be they something like Delta Force 3: The Killing Game or the wall-to-wall madness of previous Weekend Cheesy Movie entry Ninja III: The Domination. Like a low-budget Richard Donner, Firstenberg somehow maintains a tone in his movies that make them immensely watchable even if the scripts are made of recycled garbage. And since we should name names, the script was provided by Julie Reichert and Jan Ventura. Both disappeared from the business afterward, though Reichert reemerged in 2011 to write and direct Warrior Woman. But since this is a Cannon film, it is important to consider how much of the story was given to them by Golan himself. He and Globus could flesh out a movie in five minutes while young screenwriters sat with their mouth agape as Golan would create crazy story prompts out of thin air. It is very easy to think these two writers had to combine Breakin‘ and Golan’s half-recalled teener movie plot in a week-and-a-half because Cannon already scheduled the actors and booked stages.
Then you consider the crazy day-glow costumes, the finale’s dance-a-thon to save the community center — apparently inspired by a real Los Angeles event — and Chambers’s delightful non-actor performance, it all adds up to one of the most ridiculous and entertaining dance movies ever made. And yes, that is considering things like the Step-Up series, Battle of the Year and Flashdance. Once again, you have to leave it to Cannon to provide you cheese in ways no one else could even contemplate, much less execute.
Which, of course, is why we love Cannon films.
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is not currently streaming on any legitimate services, but is available with Breakin’ as double-feature Blu-ray disc from Shout! Factory.