‘We Like It Like That’ is a Documentary That Can’t Find a Rhythm

GameStop, Inc.

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So many influence meld together in a musical genre that to track the lineage of a particular genre will never form a straight line. The new documentary from writer-director Mathew Ramirez Warren, We Like It Like That, attempts to trace the genealogy of Latin boogaloo, a genre that blended Latin and soul music in the ‘60s and has left a lasting impact on the music scene. However, with all the passion in the film in front and behind the camera, We Like It Like That is seriously unsatisfying exploration. It’s apparent that Mathew Ramirez Warren loves the history and music behind boogaloo, but he’s incapable of piecing everything together into a coherent movie. Simply, We Like It Like That is a movie that isn’t quite sure of what it wants to do or how it wants to do it.

The New York of the ‘60s that the film deals with is presented in numerous stock footage shots of the city in black and white. Over the numerous stock footage images a roster of musicians and fans from the era tell their anecdotal stories about the music and the scene. But Mathew Ramirez Warren has difficulty finding the larger context to all these anecdotes – topics of racism and cultural blending are discussed but never come together into a clear portrait of the era. When not filling the screen with stock footage, the film consists of interviews that mainly feature an older musician sitting behind a piano discussing the varied influences that went into Latin boogaloo. Once they’ve finished discussing or scatting the music, they hammer out a few bars on the piano.

In analyzing the origins of boogaloo, the film can’t convey to the audience the key artists or moments of the genre’s ascension. The timeline of the era that the movie covers is ill-defined, happening sometime in the ‘60s. We Like It Like That never contextualizes its topic with historic milestones that would give the material a certain specificity. But that lacking specificity extends to artists, record labels, and the songs of the era. Even worse, when some of the subjects allege charges of being blacklisted by the industry as a means to kill boogaloo, there’s nothing in the way of evidence aside from the anecdotal. The record industry of the ‘60s was nightmarishly corrupt, and those claims could’ve been corroborated with a bit of digging that the film never engages in.

Upon concluding We Like It Like That, I had no extra connection to the music or its artists. Unlike the music it’s profiling, We Like It Like That doesn’t have a rhythm. It’s much more akin to a jam band trying to find their way in a groove than a carefully orchestrated beat that you can move to. The soundtrack for We Like It Like That is easily the best thing about the movie. The songs themselves do a better job explaining the enduring popularity of the genre than the movie itself does.

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