‘Xanadu’ Review: The Most Awkward Show on Earth

Posted in The Screening Room by - December 30, 2015

In Xanadu, hungry and down-on-his luck artist Sonny gets inspiration from Kira, one of the Greek muses for an important and artistic cause: to build a huge disco roller skating rink. Not only is the plot to Xanadu tremendously silly, but also as paper thin as it can get. Ultimately, a love story forms between Kira and Sonny and nothing really happens. Any conflict is quickly dispatched and all we’re left with is with visuals and music, and both are what keep this movie from feeling like a complete waste of time.

The visuals are 80’s vibrant and cool, sort of.  Meaning tons of rotoscoped animation and glow, which is ultra-cheesy but it brings a certain charm and personality to it. And the music is fine. I guess I’m biased because Electric Light Orchestra is one of my favorite bands, but they bring in some of the most memorable and lively tunes to the soundtrack, while the rest of the songs are serviceable but not outstanding. With the addition of Olivia Newton-John you might be expecting some Grease-level catchiness, but it just isn’t there.  

There’s a moment where both the visuals and the music blend in perfectly, and that’s in an animated sequence directed by no other than Don Bluth. This, being a movie about optimism and magic, this little sequence ultimately better represents the movie and one almost wishes that the whole movie had been animated. Of course, the story would still be paper-thin and weak, but its visuals would feel better complimentary of the music and message. As a sequence, it comes out of nowhere, but it’s really the only moment the film goes for broke and that makes it somewhat endearing. Plus, the animation is beautiful and fluid in the usual Bluth style.

The actors do fine with what they’re given. Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck have a nice chemistry together but not much is made to it. As characters and even more so as actors, they’re not given much to do. I guess it doesn’t help that Kira doesn’t have much business of their own. She’s just there as a love interest and to be a muse, and sing and dance. That’s really all her character is. One of the movie’s most endearing aspects is Gene Kelly, yes, that Gene Kelly, who through his talent and classiness edges out the movie, including a dance sequence with Newton-John.

Ultimately, Xanadu is inoffensive. It doesn’t work at all, but it’s watchable and all the more so because it seems to be committed to itself and message. A few decent songs and performances and the movie is still not even okay. But it’s not horrible either, just mediocre but weirdly endearing at times. You could do a lot worse, but you’re better off getting the soundtrack and imagining the story in your head. You’ll be more satisfied.

Final Say: Skip It

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