Xanadu (1980) (part 5 of 7)

Shutter wipe back to the art studio, where Sonny marches in. He goes to the phone and rings up Simpson, saying that he wants to see him right away. His co-workers ask what’s going on, but Sonny assures them everything’s okay. Simpson appears on the landing, and Sonny announces he’s quitting. This speech would be glorious and vengeful, except Michael Beck delivers it with all the feeling of somebody reading off a take-out menu.

Sonny: Simpson, I’ve worked like a dog trying to make Tuesday Wednesday. I couldn’t do it. I must be a failure.
Simpson: [looking around] Is he straight?
Sonny: You told me if I didn’t do things the right way, I’d be fired. Well, you were right.
Simpson: Huh?
Sonny: I’m fired! [pointing a finger in Simpson’s face] Malone, I want you out of here in five minutes. That’s five minutes, Malone, and if it’s six, just keep walking! Got it?

Having convinced everyone he’s completely out of his mind, Sonny runs out of the studio, chortling. He pauses to invite them all to the club. “Opening night, whatever you want, it’s on the house!” He ducks out, then ducks back in. “You know, I always wanted to say that line!” But did he always want to say it with such a blank delivery? That’s the million dollar question.

So, nice burning of the bridges there, Sonny. Just think: in a year or so, disco roller rinks will go the way of the dodo, and there you’ll be, drawing chalk pictures on the sidewalk. And Simpson will be there in his security guard uniform, laughing his ass off.

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But for now, Simpson simply stands there, hands on hips, looking sour. He then accidentally puts his hand down in some wet paint, and sums up his feelings (as well as my general feelings about this entire movie) with an appropriate swear word. And so we say goodbye to Simpson, cookie cutter grumpy boss that he was. So sorry you didn’t break out of your one dimension, but to do so would have involved scenes and dialogue that developed your character. And if that hasn’t happened to the main characters, why should it happen to a one-note, two-bit character like you?

Caption contributed by LaShawn

“Well, I’m gonna star in my own musical, and it’ll have real dancing and real singing. And I’ll call it Can’t Stop the Music! So there!”

Cut to Sonny and Kira popping open a champagne bottle, and it turns out they’re sitting in front of the Hollywood Bowl. They sure get around, don’t they? They toast to Xanadu and dreams, and Sonny leans in for a kiss. Kira goes along with it for a second, but then breaks off. “No. Don’t.” What’s this? Kira’s suddenly playing hard to get? Huh, I didn’t see this coming. Sonny asks what’s wrong, then tries one more time to figure out who Kira is. Surprisingly, she does supply a little information, but not so surprisingly, she does it in her typical cheerfully-vague fashion.

Sonny: Where do you live?
Kira: With my sisters.
Sonny: Where?
Kira: In an apartment.
Sonny: Yeah, but where’s the apartment?
Kira: On the second floor.
Sonny: Okay, that’s a dead end. What’s your last name?
Kira: Same as my father’s and mother’s.

Kira should work for the CIA. Or better yet, become a politician. It’s what all the foreign-born movie stars are doing these days. Just ask Arnold.

Kira sums up this witty exchange by saying, “No questions, no lies.” I’d think most men would appreciate a woman who doesn’t like talking, but for some reason it really bugs Sonny: “No questions, no truth either.” Wow, I’m impressed that idea even entered into the vast expanse known as Sonny’s mind. They trade more flirty banter and laugh, then they kiss, then they sparkle, and then…

And then the movie goes from “musical fantasy” to “musical huh?“, because Sonny and Kira turn into cartoon versions of themselves! That’s right. It’s another kiss-flirt-love musical montage, except this time it’s animated. And not just by any ol’ down-on-his-luck animator. Oh no. Somehow, Greenwald managed to talk Don Bluth into creating this animated bit of nausea.

Caption contributed by LaShawn

It’s just like Thumbelina, only with cheesier music.

The story behind this is that ELO learned their song “Don’t Walk Away” wasn’t going to be in the movie. They raised a big stink about it, until the producers gave in. Problem was, the song didn’t really fit anywhere in the movie, so the producers asked Bluth to animate a special sequence to tack on—er, make the song fit. Bluth, at the time, was working on The Secret of NIMH, but he agreed to not only do the sequence, but also to work on it himself.

The big question is… why? We’re not learning anything new here. In their cartoon form, Kira and Sonny make eyes at each other, dance, turn into fish, swim about, turn into birds, fly about, then turn back into their human selves and kiss smooch kiss smooch kissy kiss kiss. Is this supposed to be “really happening” in the world of the movie, or is it metaphorical? In other words, did Kira actually turn them both into fish and birds, or did she just slip a little something in the champagne when Sonny wasn’t looking?

Excuse me. I need to bang my head on the floor.


There. That’s better.

Caption contributed by Albert

That can’t be Sonny. Far too lifelike.

Finally the music vid—er, scene ends, and we fade to the Xanadu exterior, where Danny is pouring champagne for the construction crew. Yes, let’s get the construction crew drunk! That oughta get them to finish them on time!

Danny brings a glass over to Sonny (who’s busy standing around looking important), and they toast each other. Then Kira shows up. And she’s not fading in, like her usual maaaagic self, but actually just walking up. Her shirt, which has been dangling off one shoulder throughout most of the movie, is now baring both her shoulders. Maybe they figured the lower her top slips, the more interesting the movie becomes, at least to the horny teenage boy audience. Speaking for myself, I feel like putting my foot through the screen.

Danny requests that when the club opens, he gets to have the first dance with Kira. Sonny says, “You’re gonna dance?” Danny replies, “Oh, I’ve been known to twinkle a toe or two.” It’s funny, see, because he’s Gene Kelly! And… it’s ironic, and… Laugh, damn you, laugh! Share my pain!

Kira says that if he’s gonna dance, he has to “wear something special”. That’s rich, Kira, considering that throughout this entire movie, you’ve been wearing nothing but rejects from a gypsy queen’s wardrobe. With legwarmers. Sonny agrees, saying that Danny needs “some… glitz.” Oh, no. Kira adds, “Something with pizzazz.” Oh, please, no. “Something hot.” No-no-no… I don’t wanna see this… No…

Danny is intrigued and asks where he can find this thing called “glitz”. Sonny and Kira respond cheerfully in unison: “At a franchise glitz dealer!” Yes, they actually say this.

Arm in arm, they walk to a department store. A montage of shopping for clothes? In the ’80s? Oh crap. I feel another song coming on

On one side of the storefront is cardboard cutouts of people (which is bizarre in itself—why have cutouts of models instead of mannequins wearing the actual clothes?—oh, right, “musical fantasy”). On the other side are “mannequins”, which are obviously just people posing (in fact, I recognize several of them from the ’40s-’80s mashup dance). As our happy, happy trio walk in, yellow sparkles trail around the “mannequins” and they come alive and change positions. The happy, happy strains of ELO’s “All Over the World” start up, leading the way into one of the most bizarre and goofy sequences in the entire movie.

Caption contributed by LaShawn

“You want your ‘glitz’? We got your ‘glitz’! As well as lots of ‘spritz’ and ‘Ritz’!”

This is about the point where the writers give up any pretense of making a movie. Not even the dancing of Gene Kelly can salvage this debacle. Basically, he’s trying on different styles of clothing, while a lot of punk dancers/salespeople/crack users cavort lamely about him—and not in a funny Benny Hill sort of way, either.

Someone also took a bat to the shutter wipe machine, because all of a sudden, we’re getting wipes up the wazoo. Every couple of seconds there’s shutter wipes, slides to the right, slides to the left, up, down, spirals, circles… There’s even a neon silhouette of Danny spiraling off the screen! It’s like someone fed broken neon tubes to a PowerPoint presentation, and now it’s puking all over itself.

Then, inconceivably, it gets even weirder. Several women in spider-web stockings step out of dressing rooms and pose with their legs wide apart. The black dude from the ’40s-’80s mashup, the one with the white hair, is now wearing makeup and a funky spider-web costume, and crawling beneath the women’s legs. Huh? Okay, that’s just bizarre. The camera closes in on his disturbing, feral expression, then pans out to tigers roaring. Wait, no. It’s only pictures of tigers roaring, painted on swimsuits.

There are women holding the swimsuits, and pulling them against their chests to make it appear the tigers are roaring. Now, what the hell does any of this have to do with Danny finding his glitz? I’m soooo confused!

Caption contributed by LaShawn

Spider-Man was forced to take some unfortunate side jobs after his third movie bombed.

The musical montage culminates with Danny doing a goofy dance inside of a huge, person-sized pinball machine [?!]. He’s even making all sorts of fireworks and magical lights come out of the bumpers. Then, as the dancers skip out, the camera closes in on Sonny and Kira slow-dancing together, gazing into (ulp) each other’s eyes, whispering sweet (glup) nothings into each other’s ears. And Danny’s just standing there, beaming ever so proudly as he watches the woman he once loved making googly-eyes at another… Hrrrraaauuuugghhhhh!

Great. All over my clean floor, too. Thanks a lot, Xanadu. I’m never going to love this movie again.

After a bad matte shot of Sonny and Kira slow dancing in front of the newly renovated Xanadu, the scene switches inside the club, where Sonny and Kira are still slow dancing. Even Olivia Newton-John must be getting sick of all these lovey-dovey antics, because she hilariously yawns.

Caption contributed by LaShawn

Near, far, whereeeeeeeever you are, I believe that my heaaaaart will go ooooooonnnnn…

Meanwhile, Danny is talking on the phone, and Dork Guy from the studio watches the swaying couple. And you know something? We still don’t know Dork Guy’s name. No one ever says it in the movie. He just sort of appears and disappears, much like Kira, except not as maaaaaagically. Maybe he’s really an anti-muse, of screenwriting, because whenever he shows up, good dialogue tends to seep away.

Finally, Sonny and Kira break it up. Sonny asks if there’s anything else that needs to be done. What, all that dancing and smooching wasn’t enough work for him? He and Dork Guy go out to put up parking signs, while Danny and Kira engage in idle chatter. Their conversation is something about nervousness and 1945 and whatnot. It’s inane, so I’m not going to waste time describing it. When Sonny returns, Danny sends Sonny and Kira home, saying that he’ll wrap things up here. I guess even the great Gene Kelly can only stomach so much of these two.

LaShawn Wanak

When not burying her face in a book or wiping snot off her preschooler, LaShawn can often be found hunched over her laptop, churning out short stories and cackling madly. She likens bad movies to fried twinkies--greasy, fattening, full of empty calories, and very, very addictive.

Multi-Part Article: Xanadu (1980)

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