Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 11 - XANADU (1980)


- Rated PG for a few shits.
- Starring Michael Beck, Gene Kelly, Olivia Newton-John
- Written by Richard Christian Danus & Marc Reid Rubel
- Directed by Robert Greenwald
- Running time: 1hr 35min.

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!)


Considered to be one of the worst films of all time, XANADU is about as early 80's retro as you can get.  Michael Beck plays Sonny, an aspiring artist who is stuck repainting album art instead of creating something of his own.  A muse that is essentially graffiti on a wall in L.A. comes to life and laserbeams herself into Sonny's life.  Her name is Kira (Newton-John) and she immediately catches the young artist's eye.  Sonny also meets a washed up musican and former nightclub owner (who played with Benny Goodman) named Danny Maguire (Gene Kelly).  Kira has brought these two together so they can create a hip roller disco night club called Xanadu.  But what will happen when Sonny finds out that she is a muse and can't live on Earth.

Yup.  This movie is stupid.  However, that doesn't mean it's not fun.  Okay, the story really doesn't work.  The character development is non-existant.  The romance between Sonny and Kira comes out of nowhere and I found no connection at all between them.  Was it the writing or the actors?  I would probably say both.  The script is borderline incoherant and offers no good dialogue to anyone.  Michael Beck should have stayed a Warrior (he was in Walter Hill's ass kicking movie about gangs just a year earlier).  Olivia Newton-John has a great singing voice, but that only goes so far.

That's the bad.  Actually there was some good here too.  Gene Kelly gives a surprisingly charming performance as a man who wants to relive the good old days.  He gets to have a few laidback tap dance sequences and also gets to roller skate during the finale.  Knowing if you will like XANADU or not will depend on how entertained you can be by embarassingly aged music and costumes.  I personally get a kick out of it.  The special effects are so bad (which is shocking since the film cost 50 million in 2012 dollars).  Lots of glitter and lasers.  The finale is epic in it's silliness, which has numerous rollerskating extras on a luxurious soundstage singing Xanadu. 

The bad dialogue fits the cheesiness of the whole style of the film.  It's laughable.  Lots of musical interludes and montages.  Lots of rollerskating, which is awesome.  I smiled and shook my head quite a few times during XANADU.  It's so stupid and doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  I can almost recommend it based on the ridiculousness of it.  But I can't help but think of another cheesy rollerskating themed movie from the same era that has greater energy and is tons more fun... ROLLER BOOGIE from 1979. 

**1/2 (out of ****)

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