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Cinemalphabet: X is for Xanadu

November 4, 2010

A place where nobody dared to go…

In Roger Ebert’s review of Xanadu – a film he described as, “so insubstantial it keeps evaporating before our eyes.” – he spends a few moments ticking off the few reasons why a person might actually want to go out and see the film:

There are, however, a few – a very few reasons to see “Xanadu,” which I list herewith: (1) Olivia Newton-John is a great-looking woman, brimming with high spirits, (2) Gene Kelly has a few good moments, (3) the sound track includes “Magic,” if you haven’t heard it enough already on the radio, and (4) it’s not as bad as “Can’t Stop the Music.”

The remainder of the review is spent raking the campy mess over the coals, which feels a bit rich considering Roger Ebert is the dude responsible for unleashing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls onto an unsuspecting film populace who while hardly perfect certainly hadn’t committed an act egregious enough to deserve that film. Then again, we should probably defer to Ebert’s wisdom when it comes to schlocky hot messes since – to paraphrase my tagline – he’s certainly done the legwork. It’s worth noting that I absolutely LOVE Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and love Ebert even more for penning the line, “It’s my happening and it freaks me out!”

Xanadu – or as it’s known around my house – “mutherfucking Xanadon’t” that’s really is unsubstantial, but it’s unsubstantial in a manner similar cotton candy. It’s lights, fluffy, yet remarkably memorable, mostly for reasons that are less than positive. I didn’t think it was possible that John’s performance could be worse than it was in Grease, but it is. Yet, her work in Xanadu is still light years away from the stinkiness on display three years later in the dreadful romantic comedy Two of a Kind. That said, as Kira – the dreamy rollerskating muse – Olivia Newton John is the best thing about the film! That’s pretty damning considering Xanadu also features screen legend Gene Kelly.

But who actually watches Xanadu with an expectation of top notch acting, writing or directions? Nobody with any goddamn sense! No, Xanadu is a film whose strengths lie in its mighty Electric Light Orchestra soundtrack which boasts impressive cuts such as:

And the killer duet with Cliff Richards

And c’mon, if loving a cheesetastic rollerskating love story set to ELO is wrong, I just don’t want to be right.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanne permalink
    November 4, 2010 9:28 am

    Added bonus, it’s on cable A LOT, and serves as excellent background noise when I’m in boring bland hotel rooms on business trips.

  2. November 4, 2010 9:40 am

    Based on this review and Joanne’s comment, I’m thinking it makes more sense for me to download the soundtrack rather than the movie.

  3. renniejoy permalink
    November 4, 2010 10:06 am

    A shutdown from a commenter on Feministe (not aimed at you, I’m just sharing) – Stop acting like such a fucking Xanadouche!

  4. November 4, 2010 1:37 pm

    The soundtrack is a definite — the movie has to be experienced at least once to really understand it’s place in the canon. (Hey, who said the canon should be all good stuff?)

    My friend Liza and I tear up Suddenly at karaoke. She had to custom order the song, because the bar where we sang didn’t have it!

  5. November 5, 2010 3:00 am

    @Joanne – I swear there was a good patch of time – before AMC hatched Mad Men – that Xanadu seemed to be on at least once a day. Or maybe it just seemed that way.

    @Redlami – Oh it should be watched at least once. Frankly, I’m just surprised that Broadway was able to mine the film for its musical theater potential and that someone hadn’t thought of that earlier!

    @renniejoy – Xanadouche! omg, I’m totally going be borrowing that from time to time. Definitely.

    @Raymond – hahaha. “canon”. I hope someone has the good sense to put Xanadu in a time capsule to be discovered by future generations so they realize just how cheesy we were and how cocaine never interfered with Hollywood’s ability to churn out some campy ass content.

  6. November 5, 2010 4:49 pm

    I usually have the urge to watch Xanadu in tandem with Zapped. Good thing for me I don’t want to watched Zapped either. I remember being a kid at the drive inn(i.e. the good old days) and still thinking that if it was a little more terrible it would be good in spite of itself. I remember it being a chilly evening and sitting on top of the car turned around so I could watch The Fog on a different screen. I have every intention of making Offender Jr watch it, some evening when I know I am going to fall asleep.

  7. evmaroon permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:46 pm

    Not only do I know all of the songs to this movie, I know most of the dialogue, too. It’s a toss up for whether Xanadu or The Sound of Music made me the man I am today.

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