Smartly mixing the Lambada craze of 1989 (or about two weeks of 1989 at least), ingeniously inept filmmaking by an unknown Italian director (he twice uses the same pointless shot of star Andy J. Forest hanging up the phone where the camera pans up from the phone, over Andy’s crotch and finally up to Andy’s typically corpse-like expression he wears throughout the film), and a conspiracy involving a garbage truck, Lambada (released for the U.S. home video market as Rhythm and Passion, probably to avoid confusion with Cannon Films‘ own 1990 movie called Lambada) is a sweaty, panty-flashing, occasionally topless experience so adroitly malformed that the main characters don’t matter, the whole reason they are in Brazil is mostly ignored, and the big dance contest to end the movie is a contest only in the sense that there is a bunch of dancing, a banner announcing said contest, and a passing reference to the bad guy having 98 points.
Andy J. Forest brings his skinny dweeb persona with the pod person countenance to Brazil in the role of a director of a music video. Much like Mark Gregory (1990: The Bronx Warriors, Thunder), another talentless Italian exploitation legend, Andy somehow parlayed his unfailingly bland and stiffly uncool presence into a mini-career headlining monstrously bad Italian films (Bridge to Hell, Mark of the Scorpion) in which he was always the most miscast person in a cast usually made up of folks who looked they were pulled from whatever street the Italian director in question happened to be driving down that morning on the way to the set.
In Lambada, Andy shows he’s a director’s director, announcing the music video is going to be a cross between a Duran Duran video and a Bacardi commercial, thus whetting the viewer’s appetite for the music video train wreck of grody fashion, icky hair, cheesy metal music, and silly camera angles and lighting that is sure to come. In true punishingly awful Italian movie fashion though, the music video is never actually shot!
Yes, there is the ugly American singer (Mary Sellers from other dingy pasta epics like Ghosthouse, Demons 5: The Devil’s Veil and Contamination .7) who sports a blue wig and blathers on about adding a lambada scene to the end of the video, but the only work on the video is cut short when a group of thugs on motorcycles (whom I thought were part of the video!) interrupts things to threaten Andy with a knife.
Andy has gone and gotten himself on the bad side of the local gangster/lambada expert (Temistocles) because he has fallen hard for a local girl named Regina who Temistocles also is hung up on. As Andy somewhat melodramatically puts it, Temistocles will stop at nothing to make sure he doesn’t have Regina. And when the wimpy Andy says “stop at nothing”, he of course means that a dude will wave a knife in his face for about five seconds and then get back on his motorcycle and drive away. I guess Temistocles is saving all his terrifying stop at nothing stuff for the dance floor!
Andy finds out from another dancer who knows Regina, that Regina is reluctant to love Andy not because he is a doofus incapable of exhibiting a human emotion, but because Temistocles arranged to have her first love killed by a garbage truck! (In a film full of questionable technique – I am assuming maintaining a long shot for an inordinate amount of time is cheaper than using a second camera for an occasional close up – the scene where the dude’s head hits the side of the garbage truck is as funny as it sounds. It isn’t shot well of course, but it is funny.)
Further complicating matters (but really only for the sake of complicating matters) is that Temistocles is having a torrid love affair with the star of Andy’s music video! And Temistocles has a really funny story of how they met. It all started when Andy and the girl pick up a hitch-hiking drag queen who steals their car. Somehow the girl is then kidnapped by someone else and brought to Temistocles where he forces her to dance in a line with some old women, before seducing her thus proving the old adage that everyday is Carnival in Rio!
By the time of the big Lambada contest, I wasn’t even sure who was competing or if anything would be solved once a winner was crowned. I needn’t have worried though because once our heroine arrived to the contest in a garbage truck and everyone seemed to psychically know that Temistocles wasn’t such a bad guy after all, the movie just ended (after the fiftieth or so extensive dance sequence) with nothing being resolved!
Much like Andy J. Forest himself, Lambada will leave you with a stonily befuddled look on your face as you try to puzzle out how something as simple as a mildly sleazy cash in on a quickly forgotten fad could be hosed so masterfully. It all felt like dirty dancing with two left feet and a soiled thong.
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