Breakin' (1984) / Drama-Musical
MPAA Rated: PG for some language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones, Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers, Christopher McDonald, Ben Lokey, Phineas Newborn III
Director: Joel Silberg
Screenplay: Charles Parker, Allen DeBevoise, Gerald Scaife
Review published May 18, 2003
Wholly dated by today's standards, but then, all the more reason to watch. Breakin' is an earnest attempt at a feel-good breakdancing drama. It ends up being unintentionally funny most of the time, yet at the same time, it's so hard to dislike. Of course, coming out in the mid-80s at the peak of the showcased dance craze, it enjoyed a bit more seriousness at the time of release. However, there's no better non-documentary film around the "fad," so even if it isn't the best dance film you've ever seen, did anyone really expect a great movie here?
Lucinda Dickey stars as Kelly, a waitress by day, aspiring jazz dancer in her spare time. She has the looks and talent to go far, at least according to her dance instructor, but this move seems to come at a price, as he wants a little action on the side to help her career. She makes friends with a couple of local street dancers, aka breakdancers, Ozone and Turbo, and she becomes enamored of the mannerisms and moves. They agree to teach her some step in order to gain street rep, while she has a crazy idea to make breakdancing more mainstream in the form of a staged musical about it. Alas, the conservative art crowd scoffs at the idea.
The silliness factor is at an all-time high when you have street-tough Ozone and Turbo showing their softer side, and even rivalries with other "dance gangs" end up being "pop and lock" duels in place of any physical violence. There's a prominent poster for West Side Story displayed every once in a while, and it's obvious a great deal of that play/film's inspiration drifted in, especially during the choreographed dance-rumble numbers. That's not the only influence, as Flashdance-type montages permeate much of the musical numbers, as well as a good deal of the plot points.
For the most part, Breakin' is merely still worth watch for the nostalgia value, or at the very least, for an unintentionally campy romp. The stars are mostly cast for their dance abilities, and when they are dancing, it's about the only time they seem to be comfortable in the film. They aren't the best in the acting department, but do a decent enough job as amateurs not to be wholly unbelievable. Like many films around this time of music videos, much of the movie is spent trying to hock the killer soundtrack, which was probably even more popular than the movie here, even though these aren't what you would call typical breakdancing beats. No real live performances save Ice-T, who gives you a taste of some of his earliest work, again, strictly for those who are curious. Also, look for a brief appearance by Jean-Claude Van Damme as a spectator in an early scene.
©2003 Vince Leo