The Scoop: 1987 PG, directed by Michael Gottlieb and starring Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, and G.W. Bailey
Tagline: When she comes to life, anything can happen!
Summary Capsule: Store window display designer falls in love with an ancient Egyptian princess trapped in a mannequin’s body — NO, WE’RE NOT MAKING THAT UP
Justin’s Rating: More fuel for the fire
Justin’s Review: Back in college, a local New Age store went out of business. I dunno why, I guess old age hit it or something (budda-boom). As part of their closeout sale, I bought their display mannequin for 35 clams. It was a freakishly tall woman with no hair who was more anatomically incorrect than Barbie — I had to have it, ya know? So I dubbed her Quinn and debated how to take her home. You see, back then I didn’t have a car. So I wrapped Quinn up in a trenchcoat and started to lug her the mile or so back to my place. Now, Quinn is an older style mannequin, so she’s made out of wood. Kinda heavy, and very awkward as limbs are detaching right and left. So every so far, I’d stop to take a break, and I put Quinn on the ground.
No less than THREE people driving by screeched to a halt. “Sir,” they cried. “Is she okay?”
I’d grin and wave them on. “Yeah, she’s made of WOOD!” People thought I was strange, back in college.
Once I got her back, I enlisted the help of a female friend to dress her properly, and Quinn’s been standing in my apartment ever since. Mostly, I put her by the door so she freaks people out when they come in and just see her out of the corner of their eye (PoolMan can attest to this). So while I don’t have a Pinnochio complex and want her to come to life (missing six fingers as she has), I did feel the urge to see the movie based on her life: Mannequin. Yet ultimately, the story I just told you is five times as exciting as this movie.
It’s a silly idea: a guy creates a mannequin who only comes to life when just he’s around. As the 80s have shown us, a silly idea can go far, as long as it has a script and wit to back it up. Mannequin, alas, is an open casting call for acting buffoons. Everyone acts, well, like they’re acting. Nary a cherry of subtlety is found in this melted sundae of overemphasizing. If a guy is gay, then he’s incredibly effeminate and wears enough neon to decorate several hot air balloons. If a guy is bad, then he growls, is stupid, and runs into walls like a rabid chipmunk. If a guy is good, then he’s equally stupid, but at least he’s getting hot love from a wooden dummy.
Forget the whole mannequin-coming-to-life angle for a bit; what I really can’t believe is that ANYONE gives a flying rip about window displays. In this film they’re the traditional Only Sport In Town (see Karate Kid) that everyone spends nights obsessing over. When’s the last time someone came rushing into your work or school shouting about a grand new window display, and everyone ran out to see what it was? Last Thursday? Yeah… so you can see how this is ridiculous. A more modern equivalent might be someone getting too excited about a great internet banner ad.
Without any great personalities or snippy quotes, we’re left with the unsettling thought: this guy’s in love with a wooden woman. This is like a big bucket of gasoline on the burning fire of every antisocial geek who would rather create their own woman than meet one. Before he even knows that the mannequin can come to life, Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) is talking to it, seducing it, and about near making out with it. This reviewer hasn’t seen anything this disturbing since reading an article on Plushie Love. Kim Cattrall as the dummy isn’t that exciting anyway; she’s just a vapid bimbo who fills the role of “Of course I’ll love you, you made me”.
While Weird Science had a similar theme, Mannequin does nothing fun with its source material, and hosts some of the worst acting outside of Troma films. And yes, there’s a sequel.
Kyle’s Rating: Almost certainly one of my desert island top five
Kyle’s Review: If you’re anything like me, there are films that you feel such an unabashed love for nothing and no one can convince you that they’re bad. Even the craziest and/or most controversial things can’t taint the entertainment you derive out of these certain films. Sometimes it’s not just movies. Guilty or not, horribly graphic persistent rumors notwithstanding, Michael Jackson’s Thriller is still awesome (to me, at least).
Mannequin is similarly awesome, if only to me. It’s goofy, largely unbelievable, barely a notch above the cinematic standards set by the Police Academy series (the inclusion of G.W. Bailey in any comedy pretty much demands the comparison), and completely lightweight in all aspects. Yet I absolutely adore it. It regularly ranks up there with Baja Blast Mountain Dew and plain Hershey’s chocolate bars on my “favorite things” list.
I don’t know if my love for it comes from it being one of the earliest films I encountered in my life that focused on an enthusiastically-creative hero (go Jonathon Switcher go!), or I simply have the sort of patiently goofy personality required to love this sort of movie. I really don’t care. I just know that only Tron rivals it for the status of “film I can watch at any time and any place no matter what the circumstances and enjoy it.” I’m still on the fence regarding that $250 Sony PSP, even though they’ve put out Tron on UMD to be watched on the handheld system. But if they put out Mannequin, I would totally buy it without hesitation. And the 80’s hijinks would be just as awesome, even shrunk down for viewing on a 4.5” screen. Awesome!
It’s difficult for me to highlight anything in particular that makes Mannequin so memorable, because everything about it is memorable. Andrew McCarthy is brilliantly charming, Kim Cattrall is brilliantly charming, and James Spader is brilliantly smarmy. The entire cast kicks butt, the huge department store is the sort of fabulous adult playground anyone would love to spend long nights alone with a soulmate in, and the humor ranges from subtly brilliant to clunkily sterotype-driven (but in a refreshing way). And thanks be to Starship to allow “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” the greatest love song of the 1980’s, to become so inexorably entwined with Mannequin that their strengths and weaknesses fuse together into a sublime pop culture experience. Wow!
Who knows if Mannequin will play as well for you as it does for me. By now you probably have a ton of questions anyway. “How can Andrew McCarthy be considered brilliantly charming?” “How can a film about a man falling in love with a mannequin be anything less than totally creepy?” “What kind of idiot thinks ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ is the greatest love song of the 80’s?”
Here are answers to these questions and more: Easily, easily, me (and before you ask, Garbage’s “I Would Die For You” is the greatest modern love song, so there), and here’s an important mantra to recall when you’re driving home with a rental copy of Mannequin in your backseat: Just have fun with it! Maybe you found love really easily and didn’t have any goofiness finding it (or a steady job). But those of us whose lives include more goofiness than the guy who wears the Goofy costume at Disneyland, here’s a romantic comedies for our sensibilities. If nothing else, you’ll never pass by another department store mannequin again with giving it the once-over. Yeah, baby!
Oh rapturous joy! I’m attracted to wood!
It’s time to BOOGIE!
- Despite being a horrible cheesepuff of a film, Mannequin got over $40 million at the box office, and inspired a sequel.
- Nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for the song, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”
- Girls in mummy outfits… kinda cute
- That Egyptian mom is a really really bad actress.
- Ah, animated opening credits… this is why the 80s RULED!
- Irrational bosses, gotta love them
- Nice hair, comb-over boy
- Everyone’s a little TOO excited about window displays
- Music dress-up montage!
- Hollywood’s sunglasses are the stuff of legend
- It’s easy to hangglide in department stores
- G.W. Bailey is STILL Police Academy’s Captain Harris in other movies
Roxie: Oh, my camera.
Jonathan: A radio shrink? They’re only good for people with problems that fit between the commercials.
Jonathan: That teaches him to mess with a man and his mannequin.
Hollywood: You know I would never interrupt you when you’re getting a piece of wood…
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