Guilty Pleasure No. 13: Lambada (dir by Joel Silberg)

Last year, I was doing a search for dance scenes on YouTube and I came across a handful of scenes from a film called Lambada.  The scenes all had an undeniably cheap look to them and featured a rather stiff dancer who was wearing one dangling earring.  The scenes were so memorably bad that I promised myself that, if I ever got the chance, I would watch this Lambada.

Well, I got that chance last night when Lambada turned up on NUVOtv.  I forced my BFF Evelyn to watch the movie with me because I thought I might want to use the movie for one of my What Evelyn and Lisa Watched Last Night reviews.  However, as we watched Lambada, I realized that the only way to review this movie was to consider it as a guilty pleasure.

First released way back in 1990, Lambada tells the story of Mr. Laird (J. Eddie Peck), an idealistic math teacher in Beverly Hills by day and a sexy dancer at night.  Did I mention that when Mr. Laird dances, he calls himself Blade?  Because he so does!

However, Blade isn’t just dancing for fun or to deal with what appears to be a split personality.  Instead, he uses dance skills to impress the poor kids at the clubs so that he can then lure them into a backroom where he helps them prepare to take the GED.

He’s a dancer with a conscience and who doesn’t love that, right?

However, eventually Mr. Laird is spotted dancing by Sandy (Melora Hardin, a decade and a half before playing Jan on The Office), one of his students from Beverly Hills.  When he doesn’t respond to her crush, she reveals his secret and — for reasons that are never quite clear — this puts his job in jeopardy.

Why did Lambada turn out to be such a guilty pleasure?

Just consider the following:

1) Cast in the key role of “Blade” Laird, J. Eddie Peck looks good but gives a performance that almost epitomizes the concept of anti-charisma.  When he’s teaching in Beverly Hills, he wears sexy glasses.  When he’s dancing in the barrio, he loses the glasses and instead wears one dangling earring.  When a female student in Beverly Hills hits on him, he awkwardly smiles.  When he dances, he moves so stiffly that he resembles a mannequin on a treadmill.  That’s about the extent of Peck’s performance.

2) Melora Hardin, on the other hand, is completely natural and likable in the role of Sandy but, even though this film was made 16 years before the premiere of the Office, Hardin has already picked up a lot of the techniques that she would use to make Jan Levinson-Gould such a memorable character.  Every time that Sandy smiles nervously or looks annoyed by another character, it’s impossible not to be reminded of Jan struggling to manage Michael Scott.    As Nathan Rabin pointed out in his review of this film over at the A.V. Club, Lambada really does feel like Jan Levinson: The Early Years.

3) If Lambada was made today, it would be  called Twerking and, while watching, it was hard not to imagine Melora Hardin chasing J. Eddie Peck with a big foam finger.

4) An aggressively forgettable song called Set The Night On Fire is played about a hundred times over the course of the film.  The song is so generic and forced, and everyone in the film has to pretend to be so in love with it, that it becomes  oddly fascinating.

5) The club that Blade dances at has an upside down police car hanging from the ceiling.  The club, itself, gives off a definite human trafficking vibe but that police car is pretty neat.

6) One of Mr. Laird’s Beverly Hills students is named Egghead.  Naturally, he’s the smartest student and he’s obsessed with computers.  Evelyn and I both found ourselves wondering if Egghead was just a nickname or if his parents actually named him that in order to force him to grow up to be intelligent.  (Even Mr. Laird calls him Egghead, which — if that’s not the student’s name — seems a bit unprofessional for a teacher.)  It may not sound like much but it provided us with hours of amusement.

7) There’s a scene where Egghead uses his computer to inspire an entire classroom to spontaneously start dancing.  What makes this scene especially memorable is that the computer dances along with them.

8) Whenever Blade is teaching his GED class, the students respond to almost everything he says by cheering.  If nothing else, I’m sure many teachers have fantasized about being as irrationally loved by their students as Blade.

9) Eventually, Blade’s GED students compete with the Beverly Hills students.  No, it’s not a dance-off.  It’s a math-off!  That’s right — they’re competing to see who can correctly answer the most math questions.  And, believe it or not, the future of Blade’s career depends on whether or not his GED students can win.  Apparently, this is how the California educational system worked back in 1990.

10) Finally, the ultimate reason that Lambada is a guilty pleasure is because — regardless of how silly and ludicrous the film may seem to us today — it was actually produced and released into theaters.  That means that, somewhere out there, there are people who actually paid money to see this movie.  They may not admit it but they’re out there.

They’re out there.


49 responses to “Guilty Pleasure No. 13: Lambada (dir by Joel Silberg)

  1. I remember this and it’s rival release, The Forbidden Dance. It was the 90’s dancing version of Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. Now, you will just have to go find and watch The Forbidden Dance.


  2. Lisa Marie, you’re obviously a bit too young to recall the Lambada craze, but I’m surprised that you weren’t previously aware of this film.

    Speaking for myself, I avoided anything with “Lambada” in its title back in the day. Prior to the film, there was this really annoying music video, and to be honest, even though the lambada was meant to be this sexy dance, it looked retarded. I mean, look at this music video, it looks like a bunch of virgin couples with each person’s ankles tied to their partner’s ankles, engaged in vertical copulation.

    However, the scene from the film makes this movie look like so much fun! I laughed when you mentioned that when Blade is “dancing in the barrio, he loses the glasses and instead wears one dangling earring”, because that instantly reminded me of Ozone in the film “Breakdance”. If you weren’t already aware, both films were directed by Joel Silberg, which leads me to believe that Silberg thought that a long dangling earring was the ultimate symbol of cool.

    Joel Silberg, a Palestinian born director who passed away earlier this year, had a real passion for musical films. In addition to “Breakdance” and “Lambada”, he also served at the helm of “Rappin'”. Also, Silberg directed “Bad Guys”, comedy film about pro wrestling that had a definite musical edge, as it tapped into the whole “rock ‘n’ wrestling” connection. Silberg definitely knew how to exploit the latest crazes, his films being time capsules of the period in which they were made.

    What I find ironic is that a lot of folks old enough to recall the lambada craze look down upon it with great derision, but these are the same drips who are going nuts over the t-word. Several years from now, they’ll talk about how lame it was and act like they never liked that one, either.


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