Due to circumstances beyond my control, between the ages of 10-12, I had to live with an uncle and aunt. This period is without a doubt one of the worst times in my life.
This is solely due to the fact that despite my age this uncle and aunt continued to treat me like I was five years old. The two of them controlled so much of my life that it turned me into an angry young man, and the relationship between us has never fully healed.
Anyways, during my time living there, I was very limited in which movies I could see, not just in theaters but at home as well. Quite often my uncle would rent a movie on a Saturday, only to let me know it wasn’t appropriate for me so I would be exiled upstairs to my room.
One of the movies he brought home one weekend was called “The Forbidden Dance.” I didn’t know what the movie was about or why it was inappropriate for me. But a few years later when I was working at Blockbuster Video I came across a copy of “The Forbidden Dance.” I still remember being angry with my uncle and aunt, so I thought “Let’s see what the hell this movie was about.”
“The Forbidden Dance” is a 1990 film directed by Greydon Clark, and starring former Miss USA Laura Harring, Jeff James, and Angela Moya as Carmen. The movie is based around the Lambada dance craze from the late 80s I guess. Story-wise, things aren’t much better. The story begins when the Brazilian rainforest home of young Princess Nisa (Laura Herring) is threatened by greedy American corporations. Nissa travels to Los Angeles with Joa the shaman (Sid Haig) in the hopes of saving their homeland.
But once in Los Angeles, Joa is thrown in jail. I honestly can’t remember how or why he ends up in jail. I reached over for some chips and bam, Joa is in the big house. Anywho, Nisa must still find a way to stop the destruction of her rainforest, so when a man named Jason (Jeff James), crosses her path, she gets an idea. Since both of them love to dance, they decide to enter a lambada contest. Watching this at the time I couldn’t really figure out how winning a dance contest would save Nisa’s rainforest, but I thought “It’s a movie, just go with it.”
But I still think visiting some of the companies who are about to destroy the rainforest might have been a better use of their time. If that didn’t work, maybe go see someone in government or some of the charities that take care of stuff like this. But that would have been too easy, plus it wouldn’t have given Nisa the time she needed to find work as a maid for Jason’s parents, then as a dancer at some brothel/dancehall place.
However Nisa and Jess end up winning the contest, but the multinational’s head stooge (Richard Lynch) kidnaps Nisa afterward. Jason goes after them and helps Nisa escape, but in the process he twists an ankle, ruining their chances of performing on a TV show which would give Nisa a chance to tell the story of the rainforest. Luckily, Joa shows up nowhere and uses his magic powers to heal Jason’s wound, and the dance goes ahead as planned. The crowd, of course, loves them, and they start a boycott against the forest-destroyers, and the film wraps up with everyone doing the Lambada. Mind you, nobody has said the rainforest is safe, but hey, Lambada.
This movie was an experience, that’s for damn sure. But the fact is, “The Forbidden Dance” is an awful movie. There is very little to remember this movie by. Forget the paper-thin plot for a second, the dance sequences are just not that memorable. Yet, dance movies when done right can work. “Footloose” and “Dirty Dancing” are proof of that. But those movies built a story around dancing, whereas “The Forbidden Dance” forgot the story and figured the only selling point they needed was Lambada.
The scary thing is another movie studio had the same idea around the same time “The Forbidden Dance” was released. Yup, believe it or not, 1990 also saw the release of a movie called “Lambada.” Don’t ask me about it, I was smart enough to stay away from that one. But after looking it up and finding out it’s about a high school teacher who Lambadas at night, I must admit it sounds pretty hysterical.
As for “The Forbidden Dance,” I will admit that Laura Herring did a decent job as Nisa. She certainly could dance the Lambada, and she didn’t overact in a movie where it would have been easy to do so. Her co-star Jeff James wasn’t as fortunate. He doesn’t have as much rhythm as Herring, and his acting is wooden at best. I almost got the feeling that the filmmakers just looked for the closest pretty boy they could find and hoped he could act a tiny little bit.
When “The Forbidden Dance” was over, I realized there wasn’t anything in the movie that was extremely raunchy or wrong. I couldn’t figure out why my uncle said this movie was bad for me. Heck, “The Forbidden Dance” was rated PG–13, and back then you couldn’t do as much with that rating as you can now. But maybe just maybe, my uncle knew “The Forbidden Dance” was a bad movie, and he was trying to save me from experiencing that? Nah, that would be giving him to much credit.