Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A-Z Movies, X: "Xanadu"

Recommended by:
Jeff (friend)*

Movie Stats:
Released 1980 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Robert Greenwald
Stars - Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck

Plot Summary:
Stuck in a dead-end job and feeling uninspired in his art, painter Sonny Malone (Beck) unwittingly awakens muse Kira (Newton-John), who quickly falls in love with him and inspires him to open a night club called Xanadu with his newfound friend, Danny McGuire (Kelly).

Very mild blue language.

Bad Stuff:
The music made me want to weep.

I get that rollerskating was a huge fad around the time this came out, but holy crap does it date this film. Anyone unfamiliar with the time period would be like, “Why is everyone dance rollerskating everywhere?”

I read that Michael Beck was nominated for a Razzie for this, but I don’t think that’s fair. Given the material, I thought he was very good. The performance was a huge departure from the only other film I’ve seen him in, “The Warriors,” where he played Swan, the gang’s leader. I felt the weak link here was Newton-John. The “breathy little girl” voice made sense when she was Sandy in “Grease,” but here it just grated on my nerves.

The final scene had a very strong “everything but the kitchen sink” vibe that had me rolling my eyes and whining, “When is it going to be over?”

Good Stuff:
It will forever be a pleasure to watch Gene Kelly sing and dance. He was in his late 60s when this was filmed and he still moved with such grace and beauty. He was much too good for this movie.

I liked the happy-go-lucky heart at the core of this and the “chase your dreams” message.

The Verdict:
There is little about this movie that makes any sense. For example, if Sonny needs inspiration as a painter, why does the muse who comes to help him talk him into opening a night club with a stranger? 

Who cares? Just sing, dance, and roller-skate and forget about everything else. I feel like it’s one of those movies you need to be on drugs to truly appreciate. 

I give it 2 stars.

*In all fairness to Jeff, this wasn’t so much an “I love this movie, you should watch it” recommendation as an “You’ve seen all the other ‘X’ movies people suggested and I’m the first one to say, ‘Xanadu’” recommendation.


Patricia said...

I loved this. But I was four or something. I remember I was in Tower Records in Boston and they were playing it in the movie section--we're talking late 90s--and one of the clerks was like, "what in god's name IS that?"

Do you think maybe we were just too far past the musical era? But strangely, Grease works, and it's from around the same time period.

balyien said...

I think there are a lot of musicals that are essentially timeless. I think it really depends on the movie, musical or not. The rollerskating in this makes no sense. No one ever thinks (nor did they back then), "I need to get somewhere. I'll just put on my roller skates and go." If the rollerskating had been limited to a scene where they went on a date, it would have seemed quaint and cute rather than dated IMO. I guess what I'm saying is that it's all in the presentation.