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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Xanadu

I like good movies, but I love bad movies. Sure, “high-quality” movies are okay every once in a while, but there’s nothing like watching a terrible plot-hole-ridden mess. I’m just glad the 1980s and ’90s gave us so many treasures.

I ask you, is there anything grander than watching Gary Busey and Mr. T as cabbies in the classic D.C. Cab? What about seeing Matthew McConaughey as a lunatic murderer with a robot leg in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation? What’s not to love about Jason Bateman’s portrayal of a teen wolf in Teen Wolf Too? You haven’t heard of any of these movies? You should check them out. They’re all truly amazing. And by amazing, I mean awful.

As much as I love the movies listed above, there is no bad movie I hold closer to my heart than Xanadu.

Xanadu often frequents “worst movies of all time” lists. It has every reason. It’s truly a terrible film. Here’s a quick summary so you’re in the know: A Greek Muse named Kira (Olivia Newton-John) uses her muse powers to inspire artist Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) to build Xanadu, the most glorious disco roller skating rink in the whole world. Sonny gets old guy Danny Maguire (Gene Kelly) to foot the bill.

Xanadu‘s got a paper-thin plot. There’s almost no conflict. It’s a musical. If that’s not a premise for a movie, I don’t know what is.

I’d heard of Xanadu several years ago but didn’t watch it until it popped up on my Free Movies on Demand last year. The summary described it as a 1980s version of Moulin Rouge. Way to lie, Comcast.

I turned it on and was instantly confused by the cracktastic opening sequence. Mural people came to life and turned into neon lights. You don’t think that sentence makes sense? That’s what happened. Watch it. Be astounded.

As I watched more of the movie, I realized that if I wanted to avoid brain-damage, I would have to fast-forward through the dialogue. It was that unbearable. And I have a pretty high tolerance for garbage. You’ve been warned.

Most of the musical numbers were pretty fantastic in their terribleness, pretty much on par for a bad 1980s movie. But when the movie reached a new pinnacle of awfulness during the ballad, “Don’t Walk Away,” I couldn’t believe my eyes. The main characters magically transformed into cartoon characters. For no reason.

“What the hell is going on?” I yelled at the television. What followed was a total rip-off of The Sword in the Stone. Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck turned into birds, transformed into fish, and finally changed into tiny people who could stand on top of a flower. Unfortunately, they did not turn into squirrels, so I guess it wasn’t completely like The Sword in the Stone.

Have I mentioned that a lot of this movie doesn’t make any sense? That at one point Gene Kelly dances in a giant pinball machine?

I think I almost had a seizure during the film’s grand finale. There was too much going on. There was roller skating. There was tight rope walking. There was roller skating. There were cowboys. Pop and lockers. Punk rockers. Tap dancers. More roller skating. And did I mention roller skating?

After one viewing, I became a Xanadu convert. When I bought it on DVD, my parents thought I’d lost my mind. I defended my decision. The soundtrack has a permanent home in my car’s CD player. I’ll go on long tangents about the film to friends and complete strangers. I was completely shocked and amazed when I found that a guy I worked with was frat brothers with Michael Beck back in the day in Mississippi. There’s two degrees of separation between me and Xanadu. Amazing.

To everyone’s complete amazement, the movie was adapted for Broadway last year (I’m sure no one cares about that but the theater kids). Last Tuesday, the show was nominated for four Tonys. My beloved movie of awfulness has transcended its meager beginnings and has transformed into something decent. I’m so proud.

 

Send your bad film recommendations to RACHEL SKYTT at rachelskytt@gmail.com.

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