Back in 1987, when I was just a little thing of three soon to be four, a film came out and it took me a long time to locate it I will confess. You see I saw this film's sequel first when it came out in the early 90's (which we will talk about very soon) and I had to see the original film...Mannequin. Now I have heard many people talk about this film in a positive way and in a negative "oh my god this film is awful!" way and I would have to say I am about 50/50 on the take of this film. Why you ask? well let's just begin as we always do...
What's The Plot?
In the city of Edfu (real or not I can't guess?) in Ancient Egypt, Ema "Emmy" Hesire is I am guessing a princess or at the most a lady of nobility engaged to be married not by her own choice of course to a camel dung dealer which I can see why she isn't very enthused. Like most of us women in fantasy films we want a little more and so she prays to the Gods to get her out of this and her mother mentions what we are thinking "The gods have better things to worry about than you!". Apparently, they don't so Emmy vanishes in a swirl of dirt and lightning and we soon find ourselves in modern day 1987 Philadelphia and you can kind of already see where the plot is going with Emmy but now we focus on Jonathan Switcher.
Jonathan is an aspiring sculptor/artist who can't seem to hold down a regular job. He loses his most current job working at a ( wait for it!) mannequin manufacturer because he takes six days to create a work of art instead of just putting together a piece of plastic. Every other job after that he fails miserably in keeping and it frustrates his girlfriend Roxie to no end her being a snotty, stuck up career girl who works in a department store which I guess makes her better than him? So Roxie dumps Jonathan, it starts to rain and Jonathan goes off with his suddenly dead motorcycle in this downpour until a flash of lightning shows his mannequin masterpiece in the window of Prince & Company, an older upscale department store in the vein of Macy's.
|Some guys have all the luck!!|
Knowing that she is the only thing he has ever really created with actual time and love, Jonathan decides to get a job at Prince & Co. to be closer to her (creepy?) and he only succeeds because the next morning he saves the store's owner, a nice older woman named Claire Timkin, from being crushed by a sign advertising the store's 100th anniversary. Getting work as a stock boy, Jonathan finds himself introduced to a cast of characters with the snotty Vice President Richards, night time security guard Felix still living delusions of fighting on Omaha Beach and flamboyant, camp gay stereotypical window dresser Hollywood Montrose.
Helping out Hollywood on a window display, Jonathan finds his mannequin and when the other man leaves, she comes alive and surprise it's Emmy! Apparently, she's been stopping off in various periods of time trying to find the right one in which to find love and pursue her own dreams such as flying. A little shocked at first and almost believing he has gone insane, Jonathan soon finds a creative muse and equal in Emmy when she helps him create window displays of moving mannequins, flashy clothes and avant garde style in time-capsuled late 80s flair. The only catch is that Emmy becomes alive in front of Jonathan but to everyone else she is just a dummy which puts a little bit of a kink in what eventually becomes a relationship of love between them.
When word of Jonathan's displays reach word to Roxie over at rival department store Illustra and her boss, the egotistical and smarmy B.J. Wert, they plan to bring Jonathan over to crush and buy out Prince & Co. When Jonathan's loyalty can't be swayed away from his friends he has found in Mrs. Timkin and Hollywood and the love of Emmy which has brought about his dream of creativity to life the real hilarity and drama begins.
Some things never change did you really think I was going to spoil everything for you? Most of you have probably seen Mannequin and if you haven't you know it is out on DVD with its sequel right?
Non-Plot Elements We Can Discuss:
Andrew McCarthy as Jonathan Switcher is of course cute and funny in the fourth film of his career about the time after his big Brat Pack film role as Blaine in Pretty In Pink. McCarthy has great comedic timing and I love to see him smile when other actors attempt comedy because I can never tell if it is scripted or because he is just trying so hard not to laugh! As for the more romance side of the romantic comedy coin, Andrew McCarthy tries his hardest but I find that I just don't see any real connection between his character and Kim Cattrall as Emmy I mean it's sort of sweet but I saw more chemistry between Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald in their Pretty In Pink characters than I did in this film. He was about 24-25 when this film was made so for someone that age McCarthy's acting is top notch and his character of Jonathan I guess would be the same age so he might not have a problem with adult feelings like romance maybe it's just the fact that he is romancing an older woman from Ancient Egypt that makes me not feel the chemistry.
|Andrew "Teen Dream" McCarthy|
Kim Cattrall will always be to most people Samantha from Sex And The City but back in the 80s she was feisty and fiery in films like Police Academy and one of my personal favorites John Carpenter's Big Trouble In Little China. As Emmy in Mannequin, Kim Cattrall seems to be quite energetic and bubbly being a person introduced to the wonders of the 20th century as you would figure but if she was from Ancient Egypt wouldn't she be a little more demure and maybe a lot more ethnic looking? I'm not saying they should have typecast somebody in the role but I have bought a whole bunch of other actors as being from Ancient Egypt a lot more with a grain of salt than Kim Cattrall. Now I know she can act because I've seen it but in Mannequin, Kim falls a little flat for me. She has the innocence thing for being naive to modern culture and she is quite sexy because basically no mannequin that came to life would be ugly but there is just something that throws me off...oh I remember it's that chemistry/romance thing!
|Nice hat, Kim Cattrall!|
I know I keep bringing that up but being the romantic that I am who ends up rooting for fictional couples like crazy has to see that chemistry if not between the "characters" then at least between the actors portraying them. When Mannequin was made, Kim Cattrall was thirty-one years old and I know to some people an older woman/younger man combination is hot but when it makes me look back at the plot for this film, just how old is Emmy supposed to be having her family arrange a marriage for her? Also it seems that Jonathan's girlfriend Roxie is older than him so does that mean Jonathan has a thing for older women? The mannequin he makes that soon becomes the body for Emmy does seem to look a bit more mature in age now that I think about it...*creepy*
|Our supporting cast.|
Moving right along, Mannequin also has a very good supporting cast. Estelle Getty, out of her older make-up to have her be the most senior of The Golden Girls, is very likeable and loveable as Claire Timkin. She brings that role the some touch she did to Sophia Petrillo where she is funny and tough but you still want her to be the grandmother you want to just hug to bits when she comes to visit. James Spader of course is doing what he does best in being the villain but his role of VP Richards is a little less smarmy and sinister and more comedic and pompous and being that he was 27 years old at the time shows what a great actor he is because the year before he was portraying Steff, the high school antagonist of Pretty In Pink (also alongside Andrew McCarthy I might add). G.W. Bailey as Felix and actor Christopher Maher, who plays Armand, a foreign co-worker of Roxie's, are also quite hilarious but the supporting actor who takes the cake and deserved so much more screen time is Meshach Taylor as Hollywood Montrose.
A lot of films don't really know how to handle gay characters and make them incredibly campy and where it may offend some people to make a stereotype the comic relief, Meshach Taylor's portrayal of Hollywood Montrose is just awesome! He is a flamboyant, gay black man of style and when the actor playing you is a straight as an arrow theater actor given a chance to shine and steal the show away from the main characters so much that his character is the only one to appear in the sequel...you know that stereotypes don't hurt all films. Meshach Taylor's comedic timing is spot on and he has some of the best lines in the films not to mention the best wardrobe for a late 80's gay man to have and a pink freaking Cadillac! I will admit right now that Hollywood Montrose is my favorite character from Mannequin and if I could meet Meshach Taylor right now I would bow at his feet.
|Montrose, Hollywood Montrose...doesn't it just sing?!|
Another thing I can say I like about Mannequin is the songs in the movie (not really sure if there was a soundtrack released for Mannequin now that I think of it). Of course if you don't know the song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"by Starship is from this film you have to have been under a rock or in a coma since 1985 as it is a lite rock radio staple and bad karaoke duet choice for millions. Other songs of note are the opening song : "In My Wildest Dreams" by Belinda Carlisle and the song "Do You Dream About Me" by forgotten 80s pop star Alisha which plays during one of the better parts of the film that really shows off Andrew McCarthy's and Kim Cattrall's comedic stylings which is where they play off on each other really well and even emphasizes their charismatic good looks.
So basically I do like Mannequin for at times the romance does work, the comedy aspects of the film are quite hilarious but the fantasy angle that drives the plot to me is kind of weak. The actors do well with what they are given, Hollywood Montrose is the best character in the whole film and the music is enjoyable for those who miss the pop of the 80s. Would I recommend the movie to anyone? Women. I'm not sure any straight man could sit through this film but I'm not saying a gay man could either but they might. I would probably recommend it to older college aged girls but I think for a Throwback Thursday sleepover or Rewind Weekend slumber party high school girls could enjoy watching it even with their mom or older sister.
NEXT TIME: We stick to the sequel formula for a just a bit longer I promise! Can't talk about Mannequin without taking a look at its partial sequel... Mannequin Two: On The Move