Xanadu (1980)

Despite being known as one of its decade’s cheesier camp classics, “Xanadu” isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation suggests. Instead of being a lame, so-bad-it’s-good anti-masterpiece like “The Apple” or “Can’t Stop the Music,” it’s mostly just a tame, kind-hearted and often-dorky musical fantasy that serves as a porte-manteau for its top-tier disco soundtrack featuring leading lady Olivia Newton-John in her prime, coming off of “Grease.” There’s almost zero character development for protagonist Michael Beck other than his refusal to be managed by his employer, and Newton-John is just there to smile and sing… and while those are two things she’s great at, she wanders in and out of the narrative aimlessly, popping up once in a while to prop up our leading man’s self-esteem… which is extremely tiresome, because ugh, who wants to watch a movie about a mediocre white guy who needs a mommy to wipe his tushy for him, you know? There’s also the strange case of Gene Kelly, who plays a lonely rich man who attaches himself to Beck instantly like a middle-aged creeper selling access to riches in exchange for companionship, and it’s icky as hell. The legendary performer is invested and deploys his mega-watt charisma a number of times, but given the context, it’s all very off-putting and distracting instead of charming. But in the end, it all comes down to the music, which is a nice mix of lo-tempo disco and up-tempo adult contemporary, like the famous “Magic” and the opener “I’m Alive,” which are both sure to bring a smile to anyone with an interest in easy-listening classic radio hits; and while the movie isn’t great, it’s not bad either, it’s just kind of underwhelming as a feature but it’s at least pleasant and enjoyable.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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