Xanadu-Poster

Review: XANADU (1980)

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Best Bad Line:
“Is he straight?”
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I was all geared up to hate this movie. Its reputation as one of the worst “films” ever made, on roller skates no less, made me certain that I would. I even had a slam-down all ready: “Xanadu? More like Xana-don’t!” All my genius, wasted… Anyway, I was wrong. Xana-do, people. Xana-do. But one word of caution: “spandex.” Let’s proceed:
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So… Imagine Tron meets Fast Forward. (I hope for your sake that you don’t know what that means, but I got nothin’ else). Starving artist and painter Sonny (Michael Blech, I mean, Beck) has had it with his job! Painting album covers. Mmhm… (raises eyebrow). He wants to be a real artist. Too bad he works for this jerk off– whom you can identify as a bad guy, because he keeps his top buttons undone exposing the beginnings of his intimidating chest hair. Boss man also makes Sonny do what he hates: paint for money! Wait… (furrows eyebrows). In a heated moment, ol’ wooden-face Sonny tears up his latest composition of a still-life toaster– cause that’s real art, I guess– and tosses the pieces out the window because, “Guys like [him] shouldn’t dream anyway.” At least he’s honest.
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Next thing ya’ know, Sonny’s torn anguish has awakened the 9 Greek muses who hang out in a mural in Hollywood, like immortals do. The dancing divas come to electric, purple life, making you wonder if you accidentally took hallucinogens, and shoot off to inspire crumby wannabes across the globe. Kira (Olivia Newton-John) is given Sonny as an assignment. With the help of roller skates– the chosen mode of transportation in this film– she will help him reach his dreams of painting by making him the co-manager… of a c-club??? (Shaves eyebrows off). Some naughty deity clearly sent the wrong muse on this job, but then ingrate Sonny has it coming. Of all the struggling people out there, Zeus sends Kira to help this guy? Marlon Blando? He looks like a rejected Bee Gee brother, and I don’t blame Robin, Barry, and Maurice at all for ostracizing him from their crew. He can barely speak, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear him sing. Oh sh*t… THIS IS A MUSICAL!!!!!!!!!!!
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Despite her innocent face, Kira is a radioactive slut– the grab ‘n’ go type. She’s known for breaking hearts. Turns out she broke Danny McGuire’s (Gene Kelly) back in 1945 and ruined his life. So much for divine intervention. The good news is, Gene is still a sex-pot at the age of 68. I wish he had been in the lead. It is clear that he knows the project is a piece of crap, but he’s like “F*ck it. I’m here. I’m a real Hollywood star. I’mma make the most of this!” He does, and dude still has moves. His dance duet with Olivia is the only sincerely good part of this flick, and their failed love story of the jazz age is a movie I actually would like to see– old Hollywood in black and white, untainted by neon sequins. Or neon sequences. That burn your retinas… (Shake it off, Grau). Olivia, for her part, also oozes a very pronounced amount of star power. Despite her character’s inexplicable everything, she’s like a glowing Doris Day with sex appeal. I felt very heated at times. It was confusing for me. So, old-timer Danny takes pity on Down-syndrome Sonny, and they team up to start club “Xanadu.” Don’t ask why. Just lie back and enjoy it. Maybe pop a quaalude or two.
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The film is majestically entertaining, though not on purpose. Not at all. Director Robert Greenwald fails in what he clearly attempted to make a combination of hat-tipping classicism and supernova disco. This can best be exemplified in the scene where Sonny and Danny pick out the locale of their business venture. Bit of trivia: Xanadu invented the mash-up. That’s right. See, Danny wants a jazz club; Sonny is all for RnR. They imagine their two dream images fusing together and, you guys, it is magical– you’ll cringe, you’ll cry, you’ll come back for more. (Spoiler alert, the rock singer is the best).
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The sad thing is, the dancers in these sequences are actually quite talented. Their kinda like Sonny (but gifted) in that they have so much to offer and such big dreams. The tragedy is that their bodies were given this canvas to paint on, so you literally see said dream die in front of you. There are also a great many of these extras that seem very sexually confused, as well as outrageously costumed, but then Olivia is known for bringing people to their true selves through song– like the Pied Piper. You may recall her music video, “Let’s Get Physical,” in which two body builders come to terms with their preferences and walk out of the gym holding hands. Why isn’t she given as much camp credit as Cher, I ask you?
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Moving on. The camera is static and un-imaginitive, the sets are bare and boring, and the choreography… (hahahaha)! I mean, roller-dancing sequences are a gamble, but if you’re going to go there Bob, go there. Watching Sonny skate around in wobbly, pencil-legged circles isn’t gonna cut it. I should watch this again with the sound off to fully capture the “first date” scene without the ELO distraction. Still, the visuals are to die (laughing) for– like those weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I couldn’t look away. I was entranced! I wish I had been on acid, which basically makes this film The Wall of roller disco. Also, I’m pretty sure that if you played any of the songs backwards, they would be Satanic ritual chants. Ah, another piece of the puzzle comes together.
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Whatever. Sonny falls in love with Kira, she falls in love with him, and at one point they turn into cartoons. True story. Yet, this romance isn’t believable, because there is no chemistry between them, so– again– looks like Sonny should have been sent another muse: the Muse of Science. Kira eventually has to go back to Mt. Olympus or wherever, and Sonny makes the bold move to skate right through that wall mural to bring her back! But nay, it is an impossible love, condemned even by the Heavens. Can Kira bargain “one moment more” with her stud– aka perform a Xanadu finale showcasing her fan-blown, golden haired talent? If anyone can do it, ONJ can. (Seriously. I think she’s an actual angel).
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This movie was redonkulous. Glitter, stale acting, lots of… colors… and creepy people moving their bodies irrationally about. Suffice it to say, I can see why Orson Welles based CFKane’s hilltop paradise on this film’s title. I’m a fan too. Xanadu is worth its weight in gold, and it be heavy.
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Rating:
3 out of 5 Scary Ass ’80s Extras
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