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  Mannequin Let 'em Say We're Craze-eh!
Year: 1987
Director: Michael Gottlieb
Stars: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, James Spader, G.W. Bailey, Carole Davis, Steve Vinovich, Christopher Maher, Meshach Taylor, Phyllis Newman, Phil Rubenstein, Jeffrey Lampert
Genre: Comedy, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 4 votes)
Review: Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy) always wanted to be a sculptor and brought his artistic temperament to his work which unfortunately for him did not involve much sculpture. He did create what he saw as a masterpiece of a shop window dummy, and told his boss he could produce as many as three or four of these a week, only to be told that he had to produce that many a day, and that he was fired. A succession of failed careers followed, with Jonathan's sensitive and creative character always getting him the sack, until he noticed his dummy in the display of a big department store, little realising that she was Emmy (Kim Cattrall), an Ancient Egyptian princess...

Huh? Well, if you've seen One Touch of Venus you won't be too surprised at what happens next, as Mannequin was very much that story redesigned for the eighties. Although the movie did fair business, it was the hit single it spawned that became the true pop culture behemoth: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship, as heard over the end credits and for some reason capturing the imagination of the record buying public in a way that its original did not as it was impossible to get away from it during 1987. In Britain alone the Diane Warren (well on her way to her first million) and Albert Hammond-penned song sat at the top of the charts for a whole month.

Therefore for those watching it today and aware of its main claim to fame, there's a feeling that you're sitting through the entire film waiting for the bit you know to arrive, but there was more to Mannequin than that. Sure, it was so light and fluffy a stiff breeze could have sent it flying, but it didn't pretend to be anything other than a quirky romance betweeen a boy and his dummy. Naturally, she doesn't stay a dummy throughout the whole story and transforms into Kim when either it's after dark or only Jonathan can see her. He has secured a new job at a department store thanks to saving Estelle Getty from being hit by an illuminated sign, and as she's the boss of the store, she seeks to repay the favour.

So Jonathan becomes a stock boy, but his artistic flair will not be quashed and he quickly proves himself a whizz at creating tableaux consisting of the dummies, which he's pleased about because it means he has the chance to be around his creation. Precisely how the mannequin he made is now Emmy is not a question that troubles the film, if you can accept the premise then that's all writer and director Michael Gottlieb asks of you so then you can sit back and watch all the montages, silly comedy and harebrained romance that he can throw at you. None of this is especially hilarious, but for the less cynical there's something of the idiotic charm here that could be nostalgia, or it could be that something so innocuous can win you over.

There's certainly nothing taxing about it, and sometimes, often in fact, that's all a movie needs to generate a cult. Mannequin is absurdly easy to watch unless the sweetness it exudes is making your teeth itch, which is all too possible, but really the Hollywood obsessions of its decade as evinced in its comedy are something for the cultural historians to analyse. Take the way that this is actually one of those movies about big business, as Jonathan makes his way up the corporate ladder thanks to his alliance with the supernatural Emmy and a screaming camp sidekick in novelty sunglasses (Meshach Taylor), fending off the schemes of sneaky exec James Spader and bumbling security guard G.W. Bailey, there's nothing that says the eighties more than that. You could be forgiven for seeing the whole film as a vehicle for that song, but it's such a brightly coloured bauble that it was never really intended to last further than the end of the decade, so it has done well to remain in its fans' affections for so long. You're just as well to watch the pop video, mind you. Music by Sylvester Levay.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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