[In light of Alfonso Quinones’ recent passing I decided to write a review for these movies – Jay Dubb]
Considered ‘softer’ compared to their edgier New York counterparts, both movies have since achieved cult-classic status. Yes, the dialogue is cheesy and the plot paper thin – but the Breakin’ legacy is undeniable as the moment hip-hop culture burst into the mainstream! The characters Ozone and Turbo are forever immortalized as B-Boy icons!
It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 1984, B-Boy/breakdancing culture was written off by critics as a ‘passing phase’ LOL – a fad similar to disco. Boy were THEY wrong! The ‘street dance’ subculture that started in the boroughs of New York (and eventually the West Coast) took the world by storm and became what is now a Multi-Billion dollar industry!
The early days of Hip-Hop movies (late 1970s) were nothing more than a collection of documentaries and underground videos. Eventually, these grainy videos creeped into pop culture, culminating into FOUR main movies:
Wild Style (1982)
Breakin’ 1 & 2 (1984)
Beat Street (1984)
Krush Groove (1985)
Of the Four, Breakin’ was given the most ‘Hollywood’ treatment but gained the highest exposure. Breakin’ was initially criticized as being too ‘cheesy and colorful’ – featuring a white female lead in Lucinda Dickey (Kelly/Special K).
The movies were billed as ‘urban musicals’, with large dance numbers featuring a LOT of Not-breakdancing (ballet, jazz). It bypassed the IRL violence of the times and replaced with flashy dance battles. Unlike the equally classic (but grittier) Beat Street – which took place in the underbelly of New York – Breakin’ showed us the Bright, sunny beaches of Los Angeles during the New Wave Punk-Funk/Pop-Locking Era.
In New York, B-Boys were all track suits, hoodies, and Adidas sneakers. Here in LA, hip-hop was Chuck Taylors and outlandish outfits – spiky collars, bracelets, tight leather, colorful bandanas, flamboyant characters and gender-mixed expressionism.
The decision was a stroke of brilliance and the musical gamble paid off! Sure, Breakin’ was accused of lacking that self-important, hardcore ‘street cred’, but Dammit the KIDS LOVED IT! We ’80s kids loved it to the tune of a shocking $34M box office run! Made on a shoestring budget ($1.6M) Breakin’s box office success paved the way for its rushed sequel… and LITERALLY EVERY OTHER urban dance movie to this day.
[Save the Last Dance. Step it Up. Bring it On. Stomp The Yard. You Got Serve – all owe their existence to Breakin’!]
Despite all the criticism, Breakin’ worked thanks to the undeniable star power of Alfonso ‘Shabba Doo’ Quinones (‘OZONE’ , Rest in hiphop Heaven!), and Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers (‘TURBO’) .
Shabba Doo/Ozone, a seasoned dance veteran from Soul Train days, was the Prince of Pop-Locking. He brought a tremendous Swag before ‘swag’ was a Thing. Like a Ghetto Superhero, Ozone was all flamboyant masculinity in the vein of Errol Flynn… a dashing Black Zorro of sorts.
Ozone’s younger counterpart, Bugaloo-Shrimp/Turbo, was an otherworldly breakdancing Boy Wonder! A Robin to his Batman. As a kid growing up during this Era I will tell you….EVERY KID in the hood during the 1980s wanted to look like and dance like Turbo! True to his namesake, Turbo was a Transformer come to life! An energetic, body contorting, animated stop-motion dancing machine!
And of course, that groundbreaking BROOM SCENE!
The plot to both movies are simplistic and the dialogue is at times, PAINFUL. Lucinda Dickey was the only trained actor of our beloved trio (she had ZERO hip-hop background). But the formula paid off in terms of exposure and box office. Breakin’ was the movie that families and young people could watch together. It ignored IRL street violence of East LA for the pure joy of dancing.
Fantasy? – Yes. Smart decision? – ABSOLUTELY.
– SO how do we RATE the Breakin’ movies? –
Well there’s a level of truth to everything said. It WAS the softer, friendlier version of the early hiphop movies… But the legacy is undeniable. Breakin‘ pushed B-Boy culture out into the mainstream and introduced Hip-Hop to a worldwide audience. It’s influence goes far and wide, as the characters Turbo and Ozone became household names. Shabba-Doo and Boogaloo-Shrimp were featured in everything from music videos to movies.
Following the success of Breakin’, Pop stars like Lionel Richie, Madonna, Paula Abdul, Chaka Khan (and some guy named Michael Jackson) began incorporating B-Boy dancing into their performances.
I absolutely love BOTH movies and I admit my review carries bias; but if I HAVE to rate these fairly they both carry two separate ratings. Film quality vs. legacy.
Original Breakin’ as Film: C+
The culture takes a backseat as the movie was really about white jazz dancer Kelly trying to land a dancing gig. A recycled Hollywood plot that featured too much of everything EXCEPT breakdancing. We all wanted MORE breakdancing! lol
Original Breakin’ as Legacy: A+
It gave the world Ozone and Turbo. ’nuff said!
Electric Boogaloo as Film: D
There was nothing ‘electric’ about it and It felt like an ABC Afterschool Special. It was admittedly rushed into theaters and failed to bring anything NEW. Plus, the plot about saving Miracles was ahead of its time in terms of gentrification and Missed a golden opportunity!
Electric Boogaloo as Legacy: C
Just average. ‘Beat Street’ came out (released between the two Breakin films) and is a superior movie. Only the presence of our heroes Ozone and Turbo make this movie remotely watchable. It DID manage to show the Latino side of the culture and that is worth mentioning!
All that being said, I RECOMMEND watching the original Breakin‘ at least ONCE to celebrate the characters Turbo, Ozone, and Kelly (TKO) and to celebrate the Culture. If you never watch Electric Boogaloo – trust me, that’s fine lol. But If you are a child of the 1980s like me, you should own both these movies for nostalgia alone! 😀
Lucinda Dickey (Kelly) had zero breakdancing knowledge and had to learn 2 weeks before filming.
Yes, that is Ice -T! in full funk-punk mode! Before he became known as a gangster rapper.
Adjusted for inflation, $34M in 1984 is the equivalent of $100M as of this writing (2021)
YES- that is a very young Jean-Claude Van Damme in his film debut lol!
That was also Lela Rochon’s (Boomerang, Waiting to Exhale) film debut as background extra. She was married to Shabba Doo at the time.
The recreation center used for Miracle’s is still there to this day (2021).