Dotty Winters revisits a firm favourite but finds its sequel stiffer than a shop dummy.
It is almost insulting that Mannequin is being covered in Rated or Dated as everyone knows that it is definitely one of the greatest movies of all time. So I’m just going to go ahead and assume you’ve all seen it and already appreciate its brilliance.
The film starts with our patriarchy-smashing heroine (Kim Cattrall) praying for an end to arranged marriages and modelling the original prototype of the Hervé Léger bandage dress. Then there’s a cartoon bit about Egyptians and then no more mention of Egyptians ever again.
Nowadays the telly is absolutely awash with documentaries about men who fall in love with living dolls but Mannequin was definitely ahead of its time in bringing their plight to attention. File your judgement away. Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) is just a regular, super-cute, utterly unemployable and lovable weirdo, with a minor kink for inanimate women. Get over it.
“It’s hard to describe what is so sexy about a short man with a fetish and his feisty fibreglass love interest trying on outfits in a department store, but it just works.”
Also, Jonathan is an amnesiac narcoleptic, so it’s no wonder he gets fired so often. He keeps falling asleep on the job, leaving poor Emmy to do all the window display work, while he takes all the credit. It would be a poor show if he wasn’t so loveable.
And it’s not just him. Everything about this film is adorable: the comebacks, the outfits, the department store, almost-death-by-trash-compactor and the hats (oh my, those hats – no one wears a hat quite like Cattrall).
Chief-of-Pizazz in this film is Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor), a character who was almost certainly created by asking Sharon Osbourne and Dame Edna to co-design a Gay Best Friend. He combines stereotypes and mismatched prints in a way which could easily have been (more) offensive, if it weren’t so carefully put together.
It’s hard to describe what is so sexy about a short man with a fetish and his feisty fibreglass love interest trying on outfits in a department store, but it just works. The script may be firmly tongue-in-cheek but Cattrall and McCarthy utterly commit, creating a convincing and subtle chemistry that has stood the test of time. They are so damned charming.
I often think about Jonathan and Emmy. I hope their love stood the test of time. But sometimes, I do worry, that maybe Jonathan hit a midlife crisis and reverted to his previous plastic-lovin’ ways. No worries. Emmy is a fierce, resourceful sort. I bet she’s gone on to great things. She probably owns a whole Egyptian-restaurant-themed empire, and loads of brilliant hats. RATED
Mannequin Two: On The Move
Mannequin Two opens in olden-days Bavaria. You can tell it’s Bavaria because of the American accents: even the ones speaking with ye-olde-English accents are discernibly American, just like in Bavaria (never been, pal, like the directors of this film).
Our heroine Jessie (Kristy Swanson) makes bold fashion choices. She rocks some impressively retro medieval wear but mixes it up with some kick-ass backcombing and a whole can of Elnet. She seems to have wandered into the midst of some sort of re-enactors’ flash mob. All around her IT consultants in historically dubious get-ups leap, battle and search for things under bridges. Then she gets cursed (fucking patriarchy, at it again).
“This film scores highly on the WTF Moment Index. Highlights include Jessie getting makeup lessons in a public bathroom from Michael Jackson and a car chase in a go-cart pursued by three aerobics instructors in Rambo costumes.”
Meanwhile in modern-ish times, our hero, Jason (William Ragsdale), is gadding about town in shades, stonewash jeans, a suit jacket, Andrew McCarthy’s hair and the car from Jurassic Park. These were simpler, happier days.
If you’ve ever wondered where the bollocks they speak on The Apprentice comes from, it’s all from this film. The auto-generated sass-and-jargon-a-tron who wrote for Mr James and Hollywood spit out such classic gems as:
• Deplore neglect, demand respect
• Make a showplace of your workplace
• The pursuit of excellence begins with elegance
• Give me cheekbones or give me death.
There’s even a “You’re fired” in there.
It also contains a homage to The Italian Job, where instead of gold bullion the truck is full of pantomime Bavarians and a cursed peasant-girl/mannequin. Unlike the literal cliffhanger of The Italian Job, the whole cargo tips out, and for reasons unknown to physics the plastic mannequin sinks, whereby our hero rescues/falls in love with her.
No one rescues the Bavarians, but fortunately they are skilled in the ancient art of homoerotic-stripper-dancing for lifts and get picked up by Long Distance Clara who safely delivers them to their next major plot point.
This film scores highly on the WTF Moment Index. Highlights include:
• Jessie getting makeup lessons in a public bathroom from Michael Jackson
• Jason cooking sausages in a toaster. Side note – how can he work out that you can cook pork products in a toaster but not that cursed jewellery freezes his missus?
• Car chase in a go-cart pursued by three aerobics instructors in Rambo costumes.
The film has one major flaw (and several hundred minor ones) in the shape of one of the most impressive continuity swindles of all time. Even though the enchanted peasant-girl is frozen for 1,000 years as a 1980s shop mannequin (because: showbiz), they don’t always use the same mannequin, so every so often she has a different face (presumably this is the olden-days precursor to Botox).
I think this may be because they’ve just used bulk-ordered mannequins for the role but on the two occasions when male characters are turned into mannequins these are clearly custom-made. SEXIST MUCH? I demand an end to structural mannequin sexism.
Great news, plot-device fans: apparently Jessie’s thousand-year curse can be broken if:
a) Both parties notify each other in writing within 30 days
b) You accidentally set the date on your iPhone to 1970 on a full moon
c) She gets a kiss from her true love.
The plot centres on option C, making it very similar to the plot of Shrek, only instead of getting to be a bad-ass ogre, you get Shimmering Heather lipgloss and all the skintight Dalmatian print you can eat. The film-makers opted for the traditional denouement by am-dram pantomime and hot air balloon, as you’d expect. Many Happy Ever Afters.
I think we all know that this film may not be cinema’s greatest moment. I can only assume that the makers found the idea of trying to improve on the perfection of Mannequin so laughable, that they decided just to piss about like legends instead.
In Jessie’s own words: “I love cars, I love electricity, I love America. How does it all work?” Not as well as any of us had hoped, Jessie.
Mannequin Two is the cinematic equivalent of cheese-in-a-can, in that:
• It’s clearly a poor substitute for the original
• You shouldn’t apply it directly to your eyes
• I’ll probably have diarrhoea tomorrow after today’s indulgence
• Despite my better judgement, I can’t promise I won’t seek it out again in future.
DATED/NEVER RATED1994 Views
Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.