Salsa, sadly, isn’t a film about the ins-and-outs of the breakneck world of competitive hot sauce divining — for that, Hollywood producers, please email me to take a look at my unproduced screenplay, Días de Salsa Caliente, Noches de Salsa Más Calientes — but instead a semi-musical based around the steamy art of competitive salsa dancing, made years before this beloved activity became co-opted by middle-aged gringos in an attempt to inject some hot Latin flava into their limp Caucasian marriages.
Former Menudo heartthrob Draco “Robby” Rosa — who always looks like he’s about one step away from turning into a werewolf — stars as Rico, a Puerto Rican mechanic in East L.A. with a burning, salsa-based fire in his Latino loins that, in the first five minutes of film, are thrusted directly in our faces, not only via an awkward, opening-credits dance in his neon-lit, DayGlo garage, but later and even more awkwardly, while he is fresh out of the shower performing Elvis’ “Blue Suede Shoes” clad only in a washcloth. It’s more queso than salsa, but still delicious!
Of course, Rico loves to salsa dance and spends most of his time in a hot nightclub that regularly is host to such big-name, big-ticket guests as Celia Cruz, Willie Colon and Tito Puente. Aye Dios mio! Either way, once you get past the hour and a half’s worth of concert footage and dance numbers, we’re left with about five minutes’ worth of a simplistic-enough plot lifted from any random telenovela, one where Rico’s loyalty to his friends and family is tested when his ego overtakes him in an effort to win the big dance-off (a plot thread left strangely unanswered, mind you) when the sultry cougar club owner Luna (Miranda Garrison, The Forbidden Dance) uses his skills as her attempt to reclaim her throne as the Queen of Salsa.
Subtitled “It’s Hot!” — and boy is it! — the barely remembered Salsa was directed by Boaz Davidson (The Last American Virgin), choreographed by Kenny Ortega (that video that ruined Billy Squire’s career) and made on the muy barato by the Cannon Group. It was also another entry into the action mavens’ niche of jumping on any ethnic dance craze that came their way, including Breakin’ (Break it to make it!), Lambada (Set the night on fire!) and Kinjite (Forbidden subjects!) — something which I appreciated in the ’80s and still appreciate today.
And by the way: If anyone can find a copy of the soundtrack, please send it and a bag of Tostitos my way! ¡Cómpralo ya! —Louis Fowler