1987 in FIlm – Mannequin

Release Date: February 13
Box Office: $38,018,000

Look, I don’t want to be that guy. You know, the guy that asks too many questions and starts treating things a bit too seriously.

Mannequin (1987) is popcorn, fluff, ephemera. It wasn’t made to be picked apart, examined, considered. It’s a decent two and a half minute pop song, designed to make you smile for a bit then forget all about it.

But that still doesn’t justify why the whole person travelling in time thing doesn’t make any sense.

Look. The film starts in Egypt, just after lunch according to the oh so witty opening caption. Kim Cattrall is Emmy, a woman wanting more from life despite her mother wanting her to marry someone, anyone. She pleads with the Gods to help and they do: she vanishes.

Cut to the American City of Philidelphia. Andrew McCarthy, part of the 80s Brat Pack, is wannabe sculptor Johnathan Switcher who flits from job to job one of which involves making mannequins. Four days he spends making one, when he should be making four a day. Needless to say he gets fired. He ends up, through various shenanigans, working in a department store as an assistant window designer when he finds the mannequin he spent so long making.

And, wouldn’t you know it, when he’s alone it comes to life as Emmy who instantly falls for him.

Okay, thats fine right? The Egytpian gods (or whoever) plucked her from time and sent her to the present day to grant her wish. Fine. Only she starts talking about meeting Michaelangeo and Christopher Columbus. So does that mean each time she’s been made as a mannequin? Did they have mannequins during the rennaissance? Were they carved out of wood to look lifelike? Was she bopping around time like Sam in Quantum Leap or did she have control over where she went?

It’s stupid to even talk about this really in a film this light. It’s not supposed to be Primer (2004), it’s just meant to be a daft romantic comedy. But they start to explain it a little but not enough which sets that itch going.

And it distracts from the good stuff in the film; G W Bailey shows up, essentially as Harris from Police Academy (1984) but you can forgive him for that because he plays an excellent douche bag. But clearly James Spader saw this and decided to show him what a real douche bag looks like.

As the slimy Mr Richards he steals every scene he is in. He’s an executive in the department store plotting it’s downfall so it can be sold to a modern rival and enable him to climb the corporate ladder. He’s a slime ball poured into a cheap suit that is filled with ambition. He’s a superb creation, easily the best movie heel character since Bruce Campbell in Crimewave (1985).

And thats it really. The whole film is laser focused and aimed at demographics, which it found. It raked in over $40m at the box office based on a $7m budget, also getting an Oscar nomination for it’s end credits song Nothing’s Gonna to Stop Us Now. Yep, thats where that song comes from.

Naturally, nothing really came of Mannequin. The director, Michael Gottieb would return for the sequel before plumbing the depths with Mr Nanny (1993). McCarthy would have another big hit with Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) before his career fizzled out like so many of the Brat Pack. Cattrall’s career would follow a similar path until the late 90s when she became a cultural icon as part of the cast of Sex and The City.

That she became the biggest star from this film makes sense; the film is essentially a wish fulfilment fantasy. Here is the artist who no one understands, told to grow up and join the real world until someone comes along who gets him, who becomes his muse and unlocks his potential. The fact that this person just happens to be a attractive woman is clearly a welcome side benefit.

This isn’t as bad as in Weird Science (1985), there are some attempts to make her a strong independent female character at least in the beginning but this soon falls by the wayside.

On that basis Mannequin is very much a film of it’s time. This film screams 80s from the neon covered interior of the rival department store, through to the barely touched on themes of corporations squeezing out the family run competition. Hell, you even have the flamboyantly gay friend character with his bewildering collection of sunglasses.

Still, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s popcorn, fluff, ephemera. It’s not meant to live forever, despite us still talking about it 30 years later.

The film is as fake as the mannequin that you can see on the poster.


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