The Summer of '80s Movies: 'Breakin',' Hold The 'Boogaloo' : Monkey See We are going back to the '80s with Breakin', a movie full of dancing, arguing, intense staring, and the careful avoidance of sexual harassment.
NPR logo The Summer of '80s Movies: 'Breakin',' Hold The 'Boogaloo'

The Summer of '80s Movies: 'Breakin',' Hold The 'Boogaloo'

I have to say, until last night, I didn't even realize that the star of an '80s movie about break-dancing would be a girl who looked like Sheena Easton's Mini-Me and was once the third-runner-up for Miss Kansas.

It's easy to see how it happened: "You know who we need to get for our break-dancing movie in which we defend the artistic importance of the pounding rhythm of the authentic dance of the streets? Shabba-Doo and the woman who was three heartbeats away from becoming Miss Kansas."

Believe it or not, Wikipedia claims that Breakin' is a retelling of West Side Story. I assure you that this is not true. (Just when you think Wikipedia is an impeccable source of information!) I did notice during the movie that Miss Kansas' agent — we'll get back to him — had a West Side Story revival poster behind his desk. Given that this movie is so cheap-looking that they clearly wouldn't have paid for so much as a plastic ficus if it didn't have a specific reason for needing to be there, it's certainly not an accident. It's a (rather overly ambitious) hat-tip. But this is not even meant to be a retelling of West Side Story. There is not enough death. At least not enough literal death.

The movie starts with Kelly (played by the aforementioned former almost-Miss Kansas, Lucinda Dickey) working as a waitress in a cheap restaurant, where she runs into a friend. The friend despairs that Kelly isn't dancing at the moment (Kelly is very talented, a piece of information that must be passed along as exposition, as it will not necessarily be self-evident at any point during the movie) and encourages her to get in touch with an agent who can get her some work.

Meanwhile, Kelly is taking jazz classes with Franco, a teacher who looks a little like Luke Perry plus ten years, four divorces and a DWI. Franco clearly is not to be trusted. He wears his super-intense Sexyface all the time, forever leering at Kelly in her classic '80s dance look of a black unitard and what appears to be hot pink underwear worn outside it. He cannot resist her. He says things while they are dancing together like, "Caress me! More passion!" (He says "Caress me." I swear.)

Can Kelly fight off the skeevy dance teacher? What will happen when she encounters street dancing? And what is with the pants in this movie? More, after the jump...

But Kelly just wants to be friends with Franco, because while she is no genius (a plot point that will recur), once he dances her into the big mirror, pins her there, and plants a great big smooch on her, she begins to catch on that his forehead might as well be flashing "GREAT BIG SKEEVY CREEP."

Kelly's best friend is Adam, who is played by someone named Phineas Newborn III. Kelly calls him "Cupcakes," and believe me when I tell you that her explanation, which is that he's cute as a cupcake, is not at all necessary. The character of Cupcakes comes straight (ahem) out of every mid-'80s cliché about what a best-pal male dancer who is not a love interest and is named "Cupcakes" might be like. If you get my lavender-wearing meaning.