Lockdown Movie Musts: The Breakdancing B-Boys of 1984 Edition

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Ozone, Kelly and Turbo lead yet another street dance in 'Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo'.

Welcome to week three of Lockdown Movie Musts! Featuring weird subgenres of yore that'll take your mind off, well, (*frowns and points out window*) all that out there.

I feel obliged to start this week with a disclaimer. When not living through a global pandemic, the only breakdancing movie ever truly worth watching is 1984's Beat Street. Essentially, it's Saturday Night Fever for breakdancing—a story rooted in old school New York grit, poverty and the respite that music, dance and art can provide.

Unfortunately—sorry, Beat Street—we're almost a month into lockdown at this point. So right now, no one needs to look at the Bronx in winter, or cramped apartments full of sad people, or that many ugly sweaters gathered in one place. (Not even time capsule appearances by Doug E. Fresh, Melle Mel & the Furious Five and DJ Kool Herc can cheer this thing up enough for 2020.)

Instead, we'll be looking at two other breakdance movies released in 1984: Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Yes, it's impossible to fathom why one year warranted two Breakin' movies, but let's just say I'm grateful for them now. Girls wearing four pairs of leg-warmers at once! Men pairing leisurewear with a surprising number of studded accessories! Los Angeles! Now this is more like it.

Breakin' is all about a conventional dancer named Kelly, who has one of those almost-mullets that were popular with women in the 1980s. After growing disillusioned with her jazz dance class, Kelly joins forces with street dancers Ozone and Turbo to form a dance crew that defies descriptions and stereotypes.


Aside from that, the plot mostly involves dance-offs, dance routines, dance training montages, dance hangouts, dance classes, dance contests, dance auditions, dance agents, dance teachers and, to break up the content a bit, dancing on Venice Beach. There's also a flagrant Nike sponsorship that no one talks about, several pre-fame cameos by Ice-T and, in the grand finale, Kelly in an outfit that makes her look exactly like Gozer from Ghostbusters.

There's almost a tiny bit of commentary about class privilege thrown in here but, in the end, the movie realizes that's not what it's here for and gives up. Hurray!

Honestly, the most important thing to note about Breakin' is that the acting is a solid reflection of the fact that dancers were hired for all of the lead roles. What this results in is a lot of awkward, '70s porn-level acting, followed by dancing instead of sexual activity. There's no way to accurately convey in words how terrible it is without just showing you an example.

So, here. Please watch in awe what happens after the robotic broom routine is over.

Given the obvious lack of substance involved in Breakin', it may come as a bit of a surprise to hear that its sequel, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, plays so fast and loose with anything even approaching realism, it makes Breakin' look like, well, Beat Street. Which, in turn, makes Beat Street look like Dark Days.

Sure, Electric Boogaloo's plot might be about working-class kids trying to save a community center. And sure, its soundtrack might be almost entirely Ice-T-based, but it's also a movie that genuinely believes scenes like the one below qualify as tense and edgy.

And that's before we even get to the part where Turbo literally walks up a wall and dances on a ceiling. Upside down. In front of his girlfriend. Who pulls the same facial expression we might expect if he were just making a sandwich or something. It's baffling on so many levels, I'm not sure there's a sensible way to even begin to tackle it. (Lionel Richie did definitely steal all of this for his 1986 "Dancing on the Ceiling" video though, so... silver lining?)

Anyway, mostly what you get from Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo is an unfathomable number of "spontaneous" dance scenes in which bystanders (including traffic cops, old ladies, dudes up telephone poles and, at one point, the entire staff of a hospital) drop whatever they're doing to join Kelly, Ozone and Turbo's dance train. (I remain shocked that the Village People didn't show up.)

Frankly, in the end, both Breakin' movies left me with totally unrealistic expectations around what to expect the next time a random group of people all hear music in the street at the same time. Maybe by the time we get outside again, we too will want to throw spontaneous street-dance parties. Best prepare with your own personal poppin' and lockin' montage ASAP.

Until next week, stay safe and keep sheltering.

For other Lockdown Movie Musts, click here