Monday, February 9, 2015

Quickie Retrospective: Mannequin (1987)

Director:  Michael Gottlieb
Starring:  Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, James Spader, Meshach Taylor, GW Bailey, Carole Davis.
Rated: PG-13

Two things I love to do is fight and kiss boys!
                ~Hollywood Montrose

Valentine's Day hits this weekend and I decided to go with something more in the romance vein of things.  And of course I can't just go with something straightforward and normal.  Here's the funny part; this isn't the first time I've thought of doing a Mannequin retrospective.  This is just the time that the stars aligned for it.  Am I a huge fan of the film or something?  No, but I just figured there aren't a lot of Mannequin retrospectives going on.  Plus, I remember this movie and at the same time I don't remember this movie.
1987 was a fantastic year for movies.  Lots of great stuff came out; Robocop, Lethal Weapon and The Princess Bride all debuted in '87.  Some other stuff came out too, the highest grossing film was Three Men & A Baby...and that's more along the lines of where we could probably fit Mannequin into in terms of quality.  Mannequin itself was a pretty big success.  Not only did it go "over the top" of Stallone's film that debuted the same weekend (yok yok yok), it finished out with $42 million on a mere $6 million budget.  The film also sold a good chunk of soundtrack records too. 
When Mannequin dropped, I was 5 years old.  While I couldn't remember a whole detailed affair about the film prior to the retrospective, I do remember wanting to see it.  Why?  I was 5, I couldn't tell you.  Pretty sure Kim Cattrall and Andrew McCarthy weren't household names for me in 1987.  Kim sure did look stunning when I saw the trailers though.  It had a sort of fantastical "only in the movies" element to it that may have tugged at my childish imagination as well.  Plus this movie had a killer song attached to it.
Mannequin is a film that could only possibly ever ever exist in the time it was made.  Its super duper 80s.  I'm not just talking about the styles or the music.  Just the type of movie it is would only happen if some sort of production turned into a disaster.  This film was competently and confidently made back in the 80s.  Its just that films, comedies in general, were done different...and in turn, accepted in a different fashion.  The romantic comedy was something else, too as we were 2 years away from When Harry Met Sally changing things up.  
The film doesn't really have much to say and struggles when trying to figure out how to extend and fill the movie with the basic premise.  It doesn't really look for much conflict and doesn't dig as deep as it could with the main point.  Not to say it has to go super dramatic or anything, it wouldn't be a comedy then, but there's more that could be done and ancillary characters that could have had things to do or more involvement with the plot than just existing.
While the film takes place in a modern day Philadelphia, this is more than a fantasy world than it is reality.  The situations that arise are over the top silly or weird.  Also the characters in the film don't really act or make decisions like any human being would.  Its more of a cartoon world than a real one in Mannequin.  Yet, with all that said, there is a good deal done with Switcher and Emmy, showing that there's more to them than just his lust for a dream girl blonde.  Plenty of their relationship has to do with them working together and making success out of his employment.  
With Mannequin comes a lot of cliches and stereotypes, though I'm not sure if they're more present looking back at the film after almost 30 years or if they were there in the beginning.  Our protagonist is one done over and over again.  We also get the stereotype rom-com overly flamboyant gay friend (play by the late Meshach Taylor).  Then there's the nice kind business owner, the skeezy guy in power (reuniting McCarthy and James Spader post Pretty In Pink) and the character from another movie playing the same character with a different name in this one (GW Bailey playing Harris from Police Academy all over again).   
Somewhere lost in this movie, which is not a good one, I found some sort of charm to it.  Maybe its a nostalgia, but the film was one of those bad ones that I found to be somewhat watchable.  I'm not recommending it in the slightest, nor will it ever make a Blu-ray wishlist piece of mine.  But, for this first time in over a couple decades of seeing it last, it wasn't a ton of torture I was putting upon myself.  Maybe its that damn Starship song at the end of the movie that makes it feel so much better while you're watching the cliche'd freeze frame with credits that make you feel upbeat after watching it?  Which, if you want a good movie with that song, check out The Skeleton Twins, which utilizes it even better than Mannequin which birthed it.

NEXT TIME:  I wish, but, nothing's gonna stop us from going "On The Move".

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