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SALSA: The Motion Picture (1988)

It was 1988 and Cannon Films head honchos Golan & Globus apparently were interested in capitalizing on the next dance craze to sweep through suburban malls across the country. 

It was 1988 and Cannon Films head honchos Golan & Globus apparently were interested in capitalizing on the next dance craze to sweep through suburban malls across the country. They already had a big hit with 1984’s Breakin’ and they were hoping for lightning to strike twice. This time, I guess they flipped a coin and decided on jumping on the Latin demographic. No they didn’t do a movie about the ‘Freestyle’ phenomenon. Instead they created the SaturdayNight Xanadu Fever‘type film that is Salsa: the motion picture.

            Starring Robby ‘Draco’ Rosa, Rodney Harvey, Magali Alvarado, Miranda Garrison, Valente Rodriguez and Angela Alvarado. With cameo appearances as themselves by recording artists: Bobby Caldwell, Chain Reaction, Willie Colon, Leroy Anderson, Celia Cruz, Grupo Latino, Tito Puente, H. Wilkins and many more. The film is directed by Boaz Davidson (Last American Virgin). Distributed by The Cannon Group and released on May 7, 1988 with a runtime of 97 minutes.

            That’s right it’s Valentine’s Day. The oddball holiday when you’re partner climbs a ladder and straddles a high horse as he or she waits to be given tribute in the form of forced romantic gestures. Never mind the moments of intimacy or the 364 days you might be fortunate enough to have a partner in arms no, this is the day to be fabulous. Don’t be a schlep. Put your love where it counts – on a credit card. Be the guy that everyone wants but can’t have. Be that guy or gal. Spend, spend, consume; dinners, Ferris wheel rides, horse & buggies through the park, chocolate, maybe a ring or matching letterman jackets, that new dress she wanted, that denim apron he’d been talking about, it’s all marketed and for sale. Nothing says, “I love you” like the romantic night out, you’d been saving up for.

            Now, why shouldn’t you do those things? Well, because you are better than all that nonsense. You’d rather stay at home and cook your own meals, knit someone a sweater, play X-box together and all the little things you two (or more) enjoy every other day. So, instead of compromising and being a scratching post for pussy cats, chill out with a drink and tune into the Valentine’s Day Retro Movie for 2016’ Salsa: The Motion Picture. It’ll make you laugh and cringe and tap your foot. The film is dated as hell. There aren’t really a lot of great salsa songs here. Instead the soundtrack is a hybrid of Latin artists with pop arraignments not unlike anything produced by Emilio Estefan with the Miami Sound Machine. The acting alone earned Robbie Rosa a Razzie Award for Worst New Star. Robbie Rosa’s hair alone deserved a Razzie. Warning: this film is filled with Jheri Curls. Wet dripping, sprinkler type Jheri curls. Be forewarned and keep your rain boots on. As well, be prepared for the dialogue and the “Saturday morning cartoon” delivery of said dialogue in this film.

            The films story is about a young Puerto Rican who dreams of being more than just a simple mechanic and aspires to become a professional dancer. He (Rosa) enters the Grand Salsa Competition with his girlfriend with intentions on winning and using some of the money to visit Puerto Rico and live happily ever after as the Salsa King. I’m not kidding… that’s what the plot is. There’s only one obstacle and that is the person running the competition Luna or La Luna herself. Luna takes Rico under her wing with the ulterior motive of splitting him up from his girlfriend and molding him into her new dance partner. In a Meta kind of way imagine she’s using his vitality to rejuvenate her career and status. The Elizabeth Bathory of Salsa.  

            There’s dancing, lots of dancing. There’s music; yeah there’s music. Best part is – it’s just long enough to enjoy and short enough to not commit suicide. Either way, it’s fun and fun is all that matters in the end. So microwave your popcorn, grab your snuggies and get your cuddlebug on with your mate. It’s (sort of) Salsa time to go way back to 1988 and get your activator application on. Stay slick, stay happy, stay in love when it’s good and feeling right. And keep your ring fingers on that rewind.


A misanthropic fiction writer and pop culture killer, originally from NYC as well loiterer of the Philadelphia area. The author of a handful of spoken word albums. Member of the Jade Palace Guard; a collective of underground lo-fi artists. Creator and author of HAINESVILLE. Currently residing in Tucson, AZ.

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