(Part 2 of 2. Be sure to check out the companion review!)

The Forbidden Dance made less than half of what the Warner-released Cannon production Lambada made their shared opening weekend; but we are speaking in terms of the purest relativism. Lambada still opened in eighth place and made less than one-fifth of that weekend's #1 film, The Hunt for Red October. It also enjoyed marginally less pained reviews, though I can't understand this impulse: if we have to choose between two absolutely, unforgivably godawful lambada movies, surely the one that's a batshit insane eco-parable that only reluctantly pulls back from being out-and-out smut is preferable for all audiences at all times to a lazy Stand and Deliver rip-off that occasionally remembers its title, and accordingly plugs in a brief lambada scene notable mostly for how much it doesn't feel like the first half of an explicit sex scene. The film's refusal to commit to being a proper dance movie is so complete that it doesn't even end with the de rigueur dance competition climax - it ends with a high-stakes geometry bee. Having seen The Forbidden Dance multiple times in my life, but only finally catching up with Lambada for this review, I find myself feeling hideously ill-used: both films are terrible in almost every way - Lambada, for example, casts bone-white Virginia native J. Eddie Peck in the Edward James Olmos "inspirational teacher from the barrio" role, and leaves the character ethnically Latino - but Lambada is far less deranged in its concept of how to structure a narrative, and so lacks the sense of impossible confusion that helps to make The Forbidden Dance such a deliciously bad experience.

That being said, it's only better in a relative sense: this is still shockingly bad. The quick version of the story: Kevin Laird, born Carlos Gutierrez, is the bright young star of the math department at an exclusive Beverly Hills high school. Thanks to sexual infidelity elsewhere in the faculty, he's about to be put in charge of the whole department by the prissy, unpleasant Principal Singleton (Keene Curtis), but Kevin has a secret: at night, he's "Blade", the smokiest, sexiest dancer at an East L.A. club called No Man's Land (the "Man's" keeps blinking out, like we're meant to understand "No Land" as a metaphor, though a metaphor for what, I cannot say), and after the club slows down, he takes all the teenage club goers into the back room for even smokier, sexier instruction in high school math. Thus will he help them get their GEDs, though if Blade ever teaches them things like reading, history, or the physical sciences, we are not made privy to it.

This situation has apparently held for some time, and would hold for longer still, except that one of Kevin's students by day, Sandy Thomas (Melora Hardin), has grown sexually obsessed with him, and follows him to No Man's Land, where she gains the knowledge to blackmail him into teaching her the lambada, which even in Lambada's sanitised form is still naughty enough to pretty easily get him fired and put on all the watchlists that the state of California can dream up.

Everything in Lambada that pertains to the lambada is reduced to a second-act complication, there solely to compromise Kevin's dream of raising the poor East L.A. kids to the educational standards of his vile, enthusiastically bigoted slackoff white students. This qualifies as, at least, a bait-and-switch; especially since director Joel Silberg - the helmer of no less than Breakin' itself, along with its apostrophied spiritual sister Rappin' - is good at nothing else besides filming the handful of dance scenes. The cheap script he co-wrote with Sheldon Renan certainly offers no room for interesting character exploration or social expression; Sandy is nothing but a devouring sexual id for two-thirds of the movie, and none of the other students emerge from the fog of "white skin = generically shitty, bronze skin = sassy but noble". Kevin, meanwhile, is a slurry of all the boring inspirational teacher tropes that the writers could scrounge up, played by Peck with glistening, knightly sincerity and no personality whatsoever; though I did enjoy the visceral disgust he expresses during the dance with Sandy. The character is amazingly sexless - check out the non-chemistry with his wife - and that, more than anything, is what blands out Lambada, a film that name-drops the whole "banned in Brazil!" controversy, but indicates nothing of why that might have been the case. Too many lawsuits against teachers, I guess.

It's too actively poor for me to accuse it of being "boring" - it's more angering, if anything, with its ginned-up conflict between Kevin and Singleton, culminating in the most excruciating possible competitive math quiz, where the tension is all drained away first from Singleton's transparently unfair questions, an arbitrary way to keep the scores close, and then from school superintendent Leland's (Basil Hoffman) imperious "oh well, human spirit, so they win" judgment, an arbitrary way to give the film a happy ending. But it certainly lacks the unflagging bad movie energy of The Forbidden Dance. Lambada's relatively sincere approach to its subject isn't nearly as much dazzling as the wall-to-wall sleaziness of The Forbidden Dance; and its poor acting is far more blandly mediocre than jaw-droppingly incompetent. It's tacky and crude enough to successfully continue the defiantly shitty spirit of Cannon-That-Was, but a quarter of a century on, if you want to watch a clapped-out refugee of '80s filmmaking that jumps on a short-lived dance craze in the dopiest, most terribly mercenary way... I mean, it's just not even really a choice, is all I'm saying.

Elsewhere in American cinema in 1990
-Edward Scissorhands starts a love affair between Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and florid Gothic production design that lasts till the current day
-Patrick Swayze just wants to up and fuck some pottery, in Ghost
-Kevin Costner attempts to correct centuries of history and decades of cinema with the nobly pandering Dances with Wolves

Elsewhere in world cinema in 1990
-Finnish quirk-monger Aki Kaurismäki completes his Proletariat Trilogy with The Match Factory Girl
-Zhang Yimou and Yang Fengliang's Ju Dou is one of the earliest international successes of Fifth Generation Chinese filmmaking
-Abbas Kiarostami, Iran's most internationally renowned filmmaker, releases Close-Up, arguably his most important film