‘We Like It Like That’: Film Review

How the mambo got the blues.

The brief life of Latin Boogaloo sounds enticingly funky in Mathew Ramirez Warren‘s We Like it Like That, a doc interested not only in music but in its sociological meaning for a generation of young Latinos in New York City. Benefitting from interviews with several of the now retirement-aged musicians who cut the dance craze’s hits, the colorful doc is better at depicting a scene than at finding its spot in the broader history of Latin musics (though it’s not bad in that department). It would play very well on small screens after some bookings at music-friendly fests.

Having lasted only a few years, the Boogaloo fad might not be consequential enough musically to justify a feature doc. But Warren talks to plenty of New Yorkers who, in the ‘60s, drew inspiration from its fresh spin on familiar sounds. These youths may have harbored some affection for the mambo of their parents and older styles as well, but what they really loved was R&B, doo-wop and music that connected them to a broader American youth culture.

The Bottom Line

A specialized but enjoyable music doc.

Players like Johnny Colon and Joe Bataan show up here to demonstrate how those influences produced the “blue notes” they integrated into an evolving mambo style, resulting in their respective hits “Boogaloo Blues” and “Gypsy Woman.” Bataan is especially entertaining, taking us to the tiled entryways of apartment projects and to the church basement where the former gang member obsessively practiced his music.

The doc traces the brief life of these and other tunes on the charts, showing how older bandleaders tried the trend on for size — and, if certain theories are to be believed, conspired to quash the upstart musicians. We also hear how a renewed pride in their mixed-race heritage meshed with the era’s growing political activism.

But the film is a body-mover above all, with great vintage clips pairing nicely with well-photographed new material in which dancers wearing appropriate fashion dance in slo-mo — everyone reveling in the melting-pot beat.

Production company: Muddy Science

Director-Screenwriter: Mathew Ramirez Warren

Producers: Elena Martinez, Mathew Ramirez Warren

Editor: Mike Feldman

No rating, 82 minutes