By James Hancock March 16th, 2016
We Like It Like That is the story of the Latin Boogaloo craze that took root in New York City in the 1960s, a trend that eventually spilled over into pop music. For the uninitiated on this style of music, the documentary does an excellent job of exploring the cultural and stylistic ingredients that were stirred into the melting pot of New York to create this unique sound. Essentially it was a result of Latinos living side by side with African Americans in Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn all sharing their different tastes and influences. With a combination of Cuban Mambo, R&B, doo-wop, jazz and rock, Latin Boogaloo was a pure New York phenomenon that was eventually embraced by a much larger audience due to artists like Peter Rodriguez, Joe Bataan, Richie Ray, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri and the LeBron Brothers, many of whom are alive today and share their personal stories in the film. New York is my adopted home so I’m always down for watching anything that deepens my appreciation of this fascinating city and its intricate history. On that front, the film is a total success. On the other hand, the documentary is not much more than a sentimental journey with some catchy tunes. As the debut feature film by Mathew Ramirez Warren, he should be applauded for calling attention to a distinctly New York story but to be fair the film suffers from a variety of predictable shortcomings one would expect in a debut effort by an inexperienced filmmaker.
We Like It Like That is at its strongest when focusing on the musicians and what role they played in the evolution of Latin Boogaloo. Many of these musicians remain active and their musical chops are as strong as ever. Several offer a guided tour around New York to show where they learned to play while sharing anecdotes about their experiences growing up in New York. But where the film frequently stumbles is when it attempts to tie Boogaloo into political movements of that period and what forces drove the music into decline. Throughout the film, we are subjected to a overly simplistic voiceover narration offering inane observations and sweeping generalizations about history that are a total distraction from the personal stories unfolding on the screen. The film tries and fails to make a case that Latin Boogaloo faded from popularity due to a political conspiracy that feared an uprising of Latin culture. The film undercuts its own argument repeatedly with many musicians talking about how every generation wants its own sound leading to a rejection of the music from the previous generation. I was a blank slate on Latin Boogaloo prior to seeing this movie so I had no preconceived notions of any kind, but from watching the movie it is obvious that the fad for Boogaloo simply faded like so many other musical trends of the last 100 years due to the natural passage of time and changing tastes of the public. So while I wish the director had chosen not to incorporate voiceover of any kind, I still enjoyed the movie on the whole and enjoyed getting exposed to so many fantastic musicians. We Like It Like That is a very solid, albeit flawed, debut film by Mathew Ramirez Warren and a fitting tribute to a musical craze whose influence can be felt to this day.
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