I love to dance, I loved to teach others how to dance, and I love watching other people dance. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, then you know that I can not resist a film that features a lot of dancing. It doesn’t matter if the director is inept. It doesn’t matter if the script makes no sense. It doesn’t matter if the actors don’t have a bit of acting talent to use to their advantage. As long as the film features a lot of dancing, I’m happy.
Seriously, people, when in doubt … DANCE!
Let’s take the 1990 film The Forbidden Dance, for instance. Now, if I wanted to be nit-picky, I could probably find a lot to criticize about this film. I mean, this film even has a pro-environmental message and you know how annoyed I can get with message films. And you know what? You can do a google search and you can find all sorts of insanely negative reviews of this film.
But you know what?
I don’t really care about any of that. This is, at heart, a dance film. It features almost non-stop dancing, so I really can’t be too critical of it. Add to that, it also features memorable performances from Sid Haig and the late Richard Lynch. Unfortunately, neither Haig nor Lynch get out on the dance floor because, if they had, The Forbidden Dance would have been legendary.
The Forbidden Dance begins in the Brazilian rain forest. A tribe of Native Brazilians is happily dancing and basically not bothering anyone. As we learn later on in the film, the dance that they are doing is called the Lambada and apparently, the Brazilian government tried to ban it “because it was too sexy.”
(Amazingly enough and according to Wikipedia, the Lambada apparently was an actual dance craze back in 1990. The Forbidden Dance came out on the exact same weekend as a competing film about the Lambada. That film was called, appropriately enough, Lambada. Strangely enough, two years ago, I randomly reviewed that film for this very site.)
Anyway, all the dancing and the fun is interrupted by the arrival of Benjamin Maxwell (Richard Lynch), a mercenary who works for a Big Evil Corporation. Maxwell tells the tribe that they might want to stop dancing and leave because the rain forest is going to be destroyed.
Naturally enough, the tribe’s king responds to this by sending his daughter, Nisa (Laura Harring), to America. Accompanying Nisa is Joa (Sid Haig), a witch doctor. However, Nisa and Joa’s attempts to invade the headquarters of Big Evil Corporation results in Joa being arrested.
(Incidentally, you might recognize Laura Harring from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, where she played a similarly mysterious character who was lost and hunted in Los Angeles.)
Left to fend for herself, Nisa gets a job working as a maid for a wealthy family. And while neither Mr. nor Mrs. Anderson has much interest in the backstory of the help, their son Jason (Jeff James) is a different story. As Jason’s mother complains, Jason doesn’t have much interest in anything other than dancing. And, when Jason spots Nisa dancing in her bedroom, he becomes intrigued with her. Ignoring the snobbish reactions of his wealthy friends, Jason asks Nisa to teach him the Lambada!
And hey! Guess what! There’s going to be a dance contest and it’s going to be televised! What better way to get a platform to protest the destruction of the Brazilian Rain Forest then by winning the contest? Standing in the way of this plan: Benjamin Maxwell (who, in one icky scene, demands that Nisa dance for him), Jason’s parents and friends, and the fact that, through a complicated series of events, Nisa ends up being forced to dance in the sleaziest club in Los Angeles.
So, look — there’s all sorts of things that I could say about The Forbidden Dance but it features a lot of dancing so I’m inclined to be generous towards the film, especially since Laura Harring and Jeff James both know how to move and look really good dancing together. I mean, the word Dance is right there in the title. The film promises dancing and it delivers. Plus, it also delivers Sid Haig and Richard Lynch at their demented best.
So, why complain when you can … DANCE!?