Welcome back to 80s Bits, the weekly column in which we explore the best and worst of the Decade of Shame. With guest writers, hidden gems and more, it’s truly, truly, truly outrageous.
Director Michael Gottlieb (Mr. Nanny) has captured this timeless classic, tapping into the adolescent fantasy of building the perfect woman and living happily ever after, no matter how weird or wonderful the situation is. This is a concept that we saw 2 years earlier in Weird Science where two teenage geeks create a stunningly beautiful woman on their computer.
Mannequin’s opening scene perfectly sets the tone taking place in a mystical mummy’s tomb in Edfu, Egypt “a really long time ago, right before lunch”. Ema ‘Emmy’ Hesire (Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City) is a young ambitious woman who avoids being betrothed to a long list of ineligible men at any cost, and has her sights set on inventing things and above all else wanting to fly. Flash forward to 1987 where Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy, Weekend at Bernie’s, Less Than Zero) is seen creating his muse Emmy the mannequin. “You are the first thing I’ve created in a really long time that’s made me feel like an artist”. This youthful sculptor who strives for perfection makes his way through a collection of short lived jobs with horrible bosses; party balloon blower, garden hedge sculptor, and pizza topping maker. Finding his way in the world as a department store window dresser and meeting the doll of his dreams sets a domino effect of success and antics in motion for Jonathan.
The overly flamboyant Hollywood Montrose offers much comic relief to the chaos that prevails while Jonathan’s secret is trying to be exposed. Being comforted by working with someone stranger than him Hollywood doesn’t bat an eyelid at Jonathan and his dummy’s relationship: “You know I would never bother you when you’re getting a piece of wood”. His over the top sunglasses and glittered jackets are what one would only dream to get their hands on for an 80’s revival party. The musical dance montage to the perfectly formulised synthesised pop track “Do You Dream About Me” is overly fun with Emmy and Jonathan playing Bonny & Clyde, deranged organist & ballroom dancer, punk rocker & guitarist, and pimp & prossie with all fashion to match. The best thing about the costumes though is the shoulder pads on big puffy jackets, a style which made the era.
The familiar 80’s iconic faces in this flick make it feel like a trip down memory lane with old friends. Kim Cattrall plays the stylishly fabulous mannequin Emmy. Even though the role was played 11 years prior to her most popular alter ego as Samantha in Sex and the City one can’t help to see some characteristics of the latter played in the former. There is much elegance and sexuality portrayed in the role of Emmy. Andrew McCarthy played similar clumsy and lovable characters in Pretty in Pink and Weekend at Bernie’s. He brings a quirky element to all these roles. James Spader most recently recognised for TV series Boston Legal and 90’s action adventure Stargate plays the slick haired nerdy backstabber that will do anything at all costs to get what he wants. G.W.Bailey well known from his role in the Police Academy movies as Captain Thaddeus Harris is type-cast as the “bigoted jerk” security guard Captain Felix Maxwell. Maxwell is accompanied by his pug Rambo, followed by his German shepherd Terminator. Carole Davis who plays Roxie the hopelessly insensitive girlfriend of Jonathan has also made an appearance with Cattrall in Sex and the City playing Amalita Amalfi, the powerful Latino millionaires’ wife.
As part of the formula in creating fantasy romantic comedies of this 80’s the music plays a major part in the ambience of the film. “My Girl” by The Temptations brings the movie into the modern day with Jonathan creating and romancing the soon to be mannequin of Emmy. Songstress Belinda Carlisle in the heyday of her solo career performs the opening credits “I’m My Wildest Dreams” to very clever and entertaining animation. And last but not least we all have a romantic memory of the moving Starship power ballad “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”.
Don’t we all want a mannequin now?