Warner Bros. // 1985 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 14th, 2003
"This from the guy who still owes me ten dollars from a bet over which
was going to be the bigger movie: E.T. or Krush Groove."
The 1980s saw the emergence of a new form of music: rap, consisting of beats and thumps accompanied by rhyming lyrics (I'm a white man, so that's the best description I can come up with). One of the first groups to break out as a true rap star was Run DMC. The dynamic twosome paved the road for such acts as the Beastie Boys, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, and a host of other famous rap stars. In 1985, Warner Brothers tried to capitalize on the musical phenomenon by producing the star-studded hip-hop extravaganza Krush Groove. Krush Groove finally breaks out its best moves and dances to the beat on its first ever DVD edition! Get down with yo' bad self!
Krush Groove's story revolves around the lives of a batch of "talented street-smart urbanites" (the DVD case's words, not mine) who are struggling to make it to the top of the hip-hop food chain. Blair Underwood plays Russell Walker, the brother and manager of the up and coming rap group -- you may have heard of them -- Run DMC. Through various contests and tournaments, Run DMC (along with the Beastie Boys, the Fat Boys, Shelia E., and Kurtis Blow) attempt to land themselves a recording contact and make it to the big time. Along the way, they encounter shady deals, sleazy record producers, hot women, out of control egos, and def music. Yo, yo, yo ya' all...let the party begin!
Such immeasurable joy I received while watching the classic Krush Groove. Here is a movie that is the epitome of "guilty pleasure." I mean really, really the epitome. It's got almost every 1980s cliché you can think of: big hair, colorful outfits, gloves with the fingers cut out, hairspray, plastered make-up, rap music, Run DMC, the word "dope," Shelia E., jumpsuits, thick rimmed glasses, the Fat Boys, and Blair Underwood in his first starring role. Throw in Freddy Krueger and a pair of legwarmers, and you could live the entire decade in just under a few hours.
Krush Groove won't be mistaken as serious art...or drama...or entertainment. The movie stands alone in its own strange universe of rap stars and Hollywood egos. Many of the characters go by their real life names (Run DMC, the Fat Boys, Shelia E.), while others are figments of the screenwriter's imagination (Blair Underwood's character, who was somewhat based on über rap producer Russell Simmons). Krush Groove was writer Ralph Farquhar's one and only screenplay. This should come to no surprise considering the lack of drama or story in the film. As a piece of nostalgia, Krush Groove is a lot of fun; as a meditation on characterization and storytelling, the whole thing stinks like Milli Vanilli's career.
Which is why viewers need to watch Krush Groove with an open mind to unabashed fun and silliness. How can you dislike a film that features the Fat Boys rapping about eating a $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffet? Or Shelia E. singing the song "Holly-rock" while her band members (who all look like rejects of the Prince school of dress) sway back and fourth in complete, creepy unity? If you can watch Blair Underwood and Shelia E. "getting it on" to one of the cheesiest love songs ever recorded with a straight face, you, my friend, possess an uncompromising heart of stone. There isn't one song in this film that stands the test of time. From one tune to the next, it's a complete giggle fest of synth beats and dorky lyrics. If I never sleep again, I will place the blame squarely on New Edition and their synchronized dancing and matching glitter jackets.
I don't feel I can accurately comment on the acting in this film. Aside of Blair Underwood as Run DMC's tough but devoted brother/manager (who is just so-so), the rest of the cast is made up of singers and dancers that try their best to get the words out right. Run DMC have the biggest role in the film, aside of the Fat Boys, who seem to enjoy mugging for all their worth. I couldn't tell what Shelia E.'s acting talents were with all the makeup and hair spray she was wearing -- at first glance I thought she was the African American version of Tammy Faye Baker. But what's it matter? No one goes to see a movie titled Krush Groove for the acting abilities. They go for the '80s music, for the strange outfits, and the Fat Boys. If you're looking for a Saturday night flick that make no apologies for its lack of substance, then Krush Groove is your kind of musical. "Thriller" album not included.
Krush Groove is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Glory be, if there is ONE movie I've always wanted in widescreen, it's Krush Groove! Okay, so that may be a bit of a fabrication. Either way, it's still nice to see Warner do right by giving this film an anamorphic transfer that looks better-than-expected. Though there are a few inconsistencies in the image (the picture sometimes appears to be a bit soft and grainy), overall this transfer includes solid colors and dark black levels. This should make fans of the film flip like breakdancing fool.
The soundtrack is presented in a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround mix in English. At first I assumed this mix would be flat and lifeless -- to my surprise it sounded far better than I was hoping. Though surround sounds and directional effects are floating at the bare minimum, overall this track sports dynamic range and fidelity (well, as much as can be expected from a 2.0 mix). Though I'd argue Krush Groove deserved a 5.1 remix (the soundtrack is peppered with 23 songs), generally this sound mix works well. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
While this edition of Krush Groove may not be considered a special edition, there is a fair amount of extras on this disc. The meatiest is a commentary track by actor Blair Underwood, director Michael Schulz, and Source Music Magazine senior editor Brett Johnson. Fans will be thrilled with this track and the info on the production, the film's origins (some articles about the underground culture of rap) and various other tidbits about the film. All of the participants seem genial and rather happy with the way the film turned out.
"Tender Love Live with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis" is a sort of brief history on Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who, I'll be honest, I have never heard of. This short featurette sports the guys talking about their involvement with the film and the song they wrote for it, as well as a live performance of their hit tune "Tender Love." Watch it with someone you love.
"Krush Groovin'" with the Krush Groove All Stars is a music video that is basically the same thing you see at the end of the film. This short video is presented in 1.33:1 full frame.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer for the film presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Though I can't say Krush Groove is for everyone, it is a worthwhile hoot for anyone who grew up in the '80s or just loves a good nostalgia trip. Warner's work on this disc is probably better than anyone could have ever imagined -- Krush Groove in widescreen with a commentary track? Praise the Lord and pass the boom box!
I'd feel guilty if I found Krush Groove guilty. It's cheese, but it's fun cheese.
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track by Blair Underwood, Director Michael Schulz, and Source Music Magazine Senior Editor Brett Johnson
* "Tender Love Live with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis"
* "Krush Groovin'" Music Video with the Krush Groove All Stars