Wednesday, 23 February 2011

80s Movies: Mannequin (1987)

Mannequin stars Andrew McCarthy as Jonathan Switcher - and Kim Cattrall as Emmy, the eponymous mannequin. She can only come alive in the presence of Switcher, meaning her more outlandish behaviours get blamed on him.

In a sense this movie is like having the highest-maintenance girlfriend of your life - you feel like you're going crazy, nobody else can see what it's like, and you get blamed for all the weird things she decides to do when nobody's looking.

There are plenty of montages, the most brilliantly dated 80s soundtrack of them all, and of course Starship's Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now to tie it all together in the end. For that song alone it deserves its place in history.

Mannequin is one of my favourite movies of all time, even though I know it's fundamentally terrible. That doesn't really matter - it's like expecting Clueless to be Pan's Labyrinth or something. However bad Mannequin may be, it's impossible to hate it - it's just too upbeat.

The Plot

We get introduced to Emmy and Switcher right from the opener - Emmy back in Ancient Egypt, where she is some kind of princess. After appealing to the gods to save her from an unwanted marriage, she vanishes. Cue the very 80s animated opening credits, and then we're into Switcher's background story. He's an aspiring sculptor, working as a mannequin-builder, but his standards are too high - he gets fired for being too slow.

The fun really begins when he saves Clair Prince Timpkin (Estelle Getty) from being crushed by a falling sign outside the store she owns. She gives him a job in the store - where he befriends Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor) and encounters Emmy in her animated state for the first time.

All kinds of well-meaning hilarity ensue, but the fundamental premise is this: Emmy is cursed and can only stop being a mannequin, and become a real live girl, if she finds true love. Whether Switcher's feelings for her really amount to true love, or are as shallow as the rest of the characterisation, it doesn't really matter - by that point you should have bought into this movie and just be hoping for the happy ending.

The Staging

This always seems to me like one of the most 80s movies out there. It has bad one-liners (such as the opening caption "Dfu, Egypt. A Really Long Time Ago. Right Before Lunch."). It's... well, a bit far-fetched. Its characters are two-dimensional - and that's not just Emmy. Hollywood is so far out of the closet, even his GPS couldn't find the way to Narnia. The performances are very over the top, and not particularly politically correct.

Yet, like most of the 80s, it's all well-meaning. Even the villains are caricatures, so it's hard to really dislike any of the characters. Mannequin is fast-paced and fun and unashamedly over the top, much like the 80s as a whole was. It's the perfect way to capture the upbeat mood of the decade, rather than all the doom and gloom - and perhaps a little poignant to think that it came in 1987, just before the bubble really burst.

80s Movies

In February, POPSICULTURE are dedicating the month to a look back at the iconic films of the 1980s - a decade whose films continue to draw massive audiences when they are shown on TV. To follow posts in this series, check the 80s Movies label or sign up to the dedicated RSS feed.

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