ICYMI: Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)
Who doesn’t love a good musical? Seriously, because if you don’t, I would recommend seeking professional help. Yes, I love film in general but there is something about escaping the banality of real life for two hours into a world of boisterous song, spirited dance, and endless energy. From the classics like Singin' in the Rain to An American in Paris to Guys and Dolls to West Side Story (my personal all-time favorite) to more modern fare like Chicago, Once and Sing Street, I am at my happiest escaping into a cinematic world of limitless musical possibilities.
And to this list I will add Breakin’2: Electric Boogaloo. Yes, that film. I remember watching it as a child and enjoying the dance, energy, and kaleidoscope of colors in the world of Turbo, Kelly, and Ozone aka TKO. More recently, I rediscovered the film and realized there was so much more on screen and this film deserves significant recognition for the world of dance that it brings to life (sorry, no singing). The film is a sequel to Breakin’, where we met street dancers Ozone (Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones) and Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers) as they attempt to enter the world of “mainstream” dance thanks to their newfound friendship with classically trained Kelly (Lucinda Dickey). In real life, Shabba Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp are legendary street dancers from L.A. and Lucinda is an extraordinary dancer and acrobat. The best parts of both of these films are when this explosive trio gets together and the camera just lets them work.
So, Breakin’2 finds Turbo and Ozone volunteering at a local youth center, fittingly named Miracles. Kelly has just returned from a year on the road and our three friends reunite when the local real estate developer has their building condemned and wants the property for a new mall. Cue the evil laughter. From here, Breakin’ 2 takes on the classic musical trope of “Hey, let’s put on a show and save the local center.” The film has very few dramatic surprises like when Kelly is offered her dream job in Paris and must decide to abandon her friends or when they are just $50K short and Kelly’s father just happens to be super rich.
What is surprising is the endlessly inventive choreography and the addictive soundtrack (mostly courtesy of Ollie and Jerry). The film is full of highlights and montages, including the larger-than-life show that they put on for the community, but my personal favorites are “When I.C.U.” and “Combat.” The first number finds Turbo in the hospital with a broken leg and his compadres cheering him up the only way they know how. The scene includes not only nurses who turn out to be Rockettes but pregnant women who have no problem busting a move before their water breaks. The second number, which some may scoff at, is a highly energized “dance battle” between TKO and their local rivals, Electro Rock. The idea of using dance as a weapon may seem ludicrous but it’s really no different than old-style tap dance challenges (check out 1989’s Tap for a great one). The scene is furious with choreography and in the end the only “winner” is the audience.
If you have never seen Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, please do. If you have, please see it again. You may be surprised at what you remember and what you find new. As for me, I was astounded to find a young pre-“Cop Killer”/Law & Order: SVU Ice-T rapping in some truly gaudy get-ups. The film is surprisingly timeless, and I only wish Broadway producers would find a way to get it adapted ASAP.