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  Lambada Mathematics The Night Away
Year: 1990
Director: Joel Silberg
Stars: J. Eddie Peck, Melora Hardin, Adolfo Quinones, Leticia Vasquez, Dennis Burkley, Rita Bland, Jimmy Locust, Gina Ravera, Matt Feemster, Kristina Starman, Basil Hoffman, Kayla Blake, Ricky Paull Goldin, Debra Hopkins, Thalmus Rasulala, Keene Curtis
Genre: Musical, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sandy Thomas (Melora Hardin) is a high school student who, as with her fellow female pupils, likes the look of their maths teacher Mr Laird (J. Eddie Peck), but little do they know of his double life. By day, he tutors in trigonometry, by night he leaves his wife and young son behind as Blade, strutting his funky stuff on the dancefloor of an L.A. club on the wrong side of the tracks. If his boss, the headmaster Mr Singleton (Keene Curtis), ever found out Laird's job would be on the line, but it looks as if he'll have trouble anyway as one evening Sandy happens to show up at the club and recognises him...

1990 was the year of Lambada, the supposedly Brazilian dance craze that hardly anybody participated in because it was frankly embarrassing to be seen getting so close to anyone in that manner in public. By the time the scandal had broken not that the name might be a Portuguese word meaning "whip it", but the activity was actually invented in Bolivia, nobody could give a toss as it was one of the shortest lived fads in pop culture: precisely the time to release two duelling Lambada flicks, right? Whoops, no, dead wrong, as the two films from the splitting Cannon group illustrated, with both heads of that company going their separate ways for a number of reasons, but Lambada got the blame.

The other effort was if anything even more ridiculous, The Forbidden Dance, but if that had Kid Creole and the Coconuts and Sid Haig roaring like a lion, then the official Cannon work had the irritatingly overheated Hardin, apparently cast for her recent starring role in the shortlived televison version of Dirty Dancing (the high watermark of the eighties dance movie for its target audience), and none other than Adolfo Quinones who had cut a rug in the two Breakin' flicks of the mid-decade cash-in period. Billed as Shabba-Doo, we were asked to believe this thirty-four year old man was a high school student struggling with his studies to the extent that he brought his homework to the nightclub with him.

Quinones took care of the choreography, anyway, although director Joel Silberg appeared to be scuppering his good intentions by ignoring the moves and instead concentrating on about a hundred close-ups of the female arses present. Not that the rest of the movie did his stylings justice either, as while you'd expect your common or garden dance craze extravaganza to give its eager audience as much Lambada as it possibly could, what you got was the jiving replaced by stealth with mathematics. So it turns out Blade (people call him that without laughing) is tutoring the kids from the rival, rougher high school to make sure they have a chance in life, but if you wanted that surely you'd be watching Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver rather than some gyrating berk in a leather jacket.

The message to stay in school was entirely laudable, but difficult to take seriously in these surroundings. Take the nightclub, graced with not only a back room complete with blackboard so Blade can hold his unofficial classes, but an upside down police car, lights flashing, hanging precariously from the ceiling - where were health and safety? Then there was the fact the students were plainly in their twenties and thirties which represented quite the credibility gap never mind the generation gap - some of them looked older than their teacher, for heaven's sake. But the biggest mistake this perpetrated was not to stage its grand finale as a dance off between the two schools, nope, what you had here was a maths competition, which was every bit as exciting as that sounded. Certainly there was a spot of dancing at the end as the credits rolled, but the feeling of being duped into watching an educational film of the sort you'd be subjected to on a careers day never left this. Music by Greg DeBelles (which didn't include the Kaoma hit - they couldn't secure the rights).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Joel Silberg  (1927 - )

Israeli theatre director who broke into Hollywood movies after twenty years of directing in his home country with breakdance movie Breakin'. He followed it up with inoffensive low-budget exploitation fare like Rappin' and Lambada.

 
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