Andrew McCarthy? Who? The one time 80’s teen idol and the man indirectly responsible for my one time shot at a criminal career. (I once stole a free key ring with him on from the cover of Just Seventeen) What happened to him then? Anthony Edwards and Kiefer Sutherland ended up on US TV, Tom Cruise went global and for Rob Lowe it was (until The West Wing) straight to video hell…..literally.
So why didn’t cute ole Andrew survive the decade transition and still get seen in one media or another? Well part of it is that he made movies like this. Fondly remembered by those of us who were there, but as much a part of the 80’s and as little a part of 2002 as Rick Astley and puffball skirts.
Mannequin is the story of a sculptor who puts together a mannequin who comes to life and makes him the hottest window dresser in town and who he then falls in love with. Of course no-one else can see her when she comes to life. Well why would they? Other things happen that sort of revolve around department stores and corporate takeovers, but hey, this isn’t the sort of film you go to for the intricate plot now is it? This is the sort of ‘high concept’ idea that first emerged in the mid 80’s and only really sounds dumb if you bother to think about it. Which audiences just didn’t.
It’s at this point in the review that you normally fill in what happens in the film, but nothing much does and it quickly descends into farce. Kim Cattral looks pretty in a shoulder padded type way and you begin to wonder that should there have been a commentary track on this DVD how ‘fondly’ she would have remembered it and indeed if she would have bothered to be involved. Joining her in embarrassment factor is James Spader, playing McCarthy’s nemesis (as he did in Pretty in Pink and Less than Zero) and generally hamming it up. GW Bailey (he of Police Academy ‘fame’) is the security guard assigned by Spader to watch out for McCarthys strange goings on, and is just generally unpleasant to watch.
The reason for a lot of cringing in this film is its attitude. The homophobia and downright terrible sex farce that more or less went unnoticed in 1987 is now glaringly obvious and the character of Hollywood, which may well have been a step forward at the time for such a white-bread studio product, is now just horrendously stereotypical and almost a dead steal from ‘La Cage Aux Follies’ Baileys character is the worst offender in the offence stakes, getting away with making some really nasty jokes dressed up in the guise that he’s a character that the audience is supposed to hate anyway. Christopher Maher as Armand is also a really terrible Italian stereotype and pretty vomit inducing to watch.
A big part of the problem with this movie is that it really doesn’t know what it wants to be. The idea of Cattral coming to life is charming but in its execution and trying to be slightly more adult the idea soon becomes tacky and a bit sordid. And while it isn’t the fault of when it was made, the air of 80’s cheese and the music can become a bit tiresome. Amazingly this also spawned a sequel ‘Mannequin on the Move’ Staring Kirsty Swanson and the not so memorable William Ragsdale. It seems the curse of the Mannequin might have had the same effect on all its male actors…..
(Actually a search on the IMBD does prove that Andrew McCarthy does still indeed work, but for the respect of my memory of him and that key ring I risked a life of crime for I decline to list them in their full Video Hell Glory….)
Sound and Picture
For a film of its age, it never really looked that bad to begin with, but MGM have done a decent job with the transfer and the colours look crisp and sharp (they cannot be blamed by the assault on the eyes that the clothes provide). The sound is no good at all and presented in mono, but here again when there are the terrible musical numbers (Belinda Carlisle and the god awful Starship) you may well wish for a even worse sound mix or failing that, deafness.
As an MGM budget title all we are presented with is the usual bog standard trailer. But then it’s really hard to see anyone being able to justify a special edition for this. Although I’m pretty sure they could have included music videos (I’m sure someone would have wanted to see the big Brian May type perms of Starship again) and there were probably a few documentary promos that were made at the time, which it might have been nice to see.
When I saw this film at the time of release I thought it was quite the most amazing and brilliant thing Id ever seen. Now it just seems dated and a bit terrible and all my fondness for it comes from the nostalgia involved in imagining what kind of person I was at the time I watched it. I thought for the sake of balance Id show it fresh to my 9 year old daughter and she loved it, so perhaps how much you enjoy this film would really depend on how demanding you are and what you expect. In my opinion, if you have warm, fuzzy 80’s memories of this one, Id keep them in tact and not watch again.