Salsa (1988)

salsa

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Before Lambada and after Breakin’ comes this film that was made to capitalize on the world of salsa music, a style still appreciated to this day, and have the film seen somewhat as a Saturday Night Fever style story but instead of John Travolta, we have ex-Menudo singer Draco Rosa.

In Los Angeles, auto mechanic Rico lives for one thing and that is the world of salsa dancing. He is considered the best male dancer at local hot spot La Luna, run by the self-proclaimed Queen of Salsa, who’s also the namesake. Luna longs to be Rico’s partner as she feels she can keep her title and reputation going if she pairs up with Rico. However, Rico has an on-off relationship with his dance partner Vicki. However, as Rico lets his ego goes to his head, he begins to make some serious mistakes.

First, he asks his best friend Ken to watch over his sister Rita, whom he is constantly overprotecting. The reason is so he can get close to Rita’s friend Lola. Rico soon learns Lola is becoming too attached and constantly tries to get rid of her. However, when Vicki finds out of the little mistake and the fact that Luna has pretty much gotten her way, she dumps Rico. However, things are about to get worse for Rico when he learns that while he was “watching” Rita, Ken has actually fallen in love with her. With a competition to which the winner heads to the land of salsa, Puerto Rico, awaits, will Rico be to overcome his personal issues to live his dream?

Many cult film fans will remember the 1984 films Breakin’ and its sequel as well as the two Lambada films that were released simultaneously, the namesake from Cannon Films and 21st Century’s The Forbidden Dance. However, some may not remember this film that was made and released in between both sets of films that revolved around the music of salsa. Perhaps it’s the fact that this may be seen as a rip-off of Saturday Night Fever in terms of the main character striving to prove himself to be the best despite overcoming personal issues. However, the film also has a nice subplot revolving around a love story between our protagonist’s best friend and sister as well as cameos from some of salsa’s greatest musicians.

Learning his acting chops in a television series while in the boy band Menudo, Draco Rosa (here credited as Robby Rosa) plays the very egotistical Rico, who knows he is a good dancer, but lets his ego get the best of him in the worst situations. While it looks like it is a fun film from the opening dance number in the garage where Rico works, the film is more about living the dream and what it takes to achieve that dream, but at what cost. Rico’s ego makes him very impossible to have a normal relationship with his sister Rita, played by Magali Alvarado. Yes, he is the man of the house but he becomes not so much overprotective, but goes to the point of controlling and in some cases, near abusive. Rico also makes the mistake of hitting on the obsessed Lola, who is Rita’s best friend yet he still loves his on-off girlfriend Vicki, played by Angela Alvarado, who would marry Draco in real life two years after they met on the set of this film.

The love story between Rita and Ken, Rico’s best friend played by the late Rodney Harvey, plays an intricate part in the film as it risks destroying a lifelong friendship that’s more akin to brotherhood and makes Rico’s relationship with Rita even more the worse. Miranda Garrison plays the conniving club owner who sees Rico as the ticket for her to keep her reputation as the self-proclaimed “Queen of Salsa” and does quite well not only in acting, but her dance background and work as assistant choreographer is quite the combination.

Kenny Ortega, who even makes an appearance as himself singing the classic “Good Lovin’” choreographed the dance sequences and if you know of Ortega, his choreography is top notch and it looks great here. The driving force of the film not only is in the dance sequences, but the cameos of some of Latin music’s legends including Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Michael Sembello, H. Wilkins, Willie Colón, Marisela Esqueda, and Grupo Latino just to name a few. Draco himself even does a very hysterical and eye-cringe ending to the classic “Blue Suede Shoes” and has performs the song “Under My Skin” on the film’s soundtrack, which is heard during his dance scene with Lola.

Salsa is actually not as bad of a film as many would think. It’s about the great lengths one dancer has to live his dream with the film being driven by the music and dance sequences.

WFG RATING: B

A Cannon Films production. Director: Boaz Davidson. Producers: Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus. Writers: Boaz Davidson, Eli Tavor, Tomás Benitez, and Shepard Goldman. Cinematography: David Gurfinkel. Editing: Alain Jakubowicz.

Cast: Draco Rosa, Rodney Harvey, Magali Alvarado, Miranda Garrison, Moon Orona, Angela Alvarado, Loyda Ramos, Valente Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Kenny Ortega, Michael Sembello, Willie Colón.

 

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