Xanadu (1980)


“Guys like me shouldn’t dream anyway.”

The Scoop: 1980 PG, Directed by Robert Greenwald and starring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelley and Michael Beck

Tagline: A Fantasy, A Musical, A Place Where Dreams Come True.

Summary Capsule: A muse comes to Earth and falls in love with a mortal she helps inspire. What? You’ve never heard that plot before?

Lissa’s rating: Oh, wow. That’s all I can say. Oh, wow, that was bad!

Lissa’s review: My stepfather cracks me up. In almost every way, he’s such a man’s man. He hunts. He golfs. He used to work in a factory. He likes tools, engines, trucks, football, beer, and anything you can take apart and put back together. Clothes bore him. Shopping is a nightmare. It’s not really cooking if it’s done over an open flame. Wine is for sissies. Are you getting the picture? Great guy, but the operative word here is “guy”. And add to that he is mildly homophobic. You’d totally expect his favorite movie to be Die Hard, wouldn’t you?

For some reason, though, my stepfather has a love — a true, deep, abiding love — for musicals, and any movie with dancing. For the record, his favorite movie? Dirty Dancing. (Followed closely by Rudy, which isn’t unexpected, at least.)

Now, normally, you’d think I’d love this. I mean, he loves musicals, I love musicals, should be common ground, right? Yeah, not when I come home from a night out to find my parents watching Xanadu. (Or more accurately my stepfather watching, as my mother alternates between reading and closing her eyes in what was either sleep or self-defense on the couch.)

Now, I will fully admit that I did not watch the entire movie. It doesn’t matter. I can still say on excellent authority that the movie was absolutely awful, but not offensively so. Even my stepfather, who I am positive was watching because he has a thing for Olivia Newton-John, admitted it was bad. (Well, sort of admitted to it.)

As explained in the summary capsule, a muse named Kira (Olivia, there) comes to Earth to inspire mortals — in this case Sonny, played by Michael Beck (not one of the Gibbs brothers, as my stepfather insisted, although frankly, his suggestion made sense). Kira inspires Sonny to design/build a roller rink nightclub. Helping him out along the way is one of her former patrons, Danny, played by Gene Kelly. I would like to note that, although I did only see the last half, I didn’t have to get any of that except for the actor who played Sonny from IMDb. That tells you just how complex this plot is, people. Naturally, Kira and Sonny fall in love, but since she’s a goddess and he’s a mortal in short shorts, their love is not to be.

Okay, truth. The concept isn’t that horrible, really. I mean, I’ve seen worse. I’ve liked worse. And the singing? It’s Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. I mean, they got people who can sing and dance. And it’s mercifully short, clocking in at 93 minutes, which means I saw more of it than I thought. But still. It’s bad.

The effects are… oh, heck, they’re utterly laughable. They look like they were drawn with hi-lighters. They’re cheesy, distracting, and just out-and-out side-splitting. The fashion? I already mentioned the short shorts, and Sand-er-Kira runs around in this mismatched pseudo-ragged ensemble and the worst make-up I’ve ever seen in my life. The dialogue is hopelessly cheesy. How to sum it up best? This movie was released in 1980, and it looks like it. I just can’t come up with a more accurate summary than that.

It’s bizarre. It’s baffling. It will lose you in places, make you cringe, and make you wonder what the people who made this were smoking and where you can get some, because it must be some pretty good stuff. It’s one of the worst musicals I’ve ever seen… but it crosses the line to “so bad it’s funny.”

There was nothing offensive about Xanadu to me, which I admit makes a nice change. (It’s also why my stepfather loves musicals. He gets sick of violence and sex in all forms of entertainment, and you know, the man has a point.) It’s not meant to be bad — it’s just something that didn’t work. At all. Plus, it just did not age well. The first I’ll laugh about; the second, I suppose it’s not really the fault of the people who made the movie. But it’s still… wow. Worst musical I’ve ever seen, but if you want to see something so bad it’s funny, don’t take my word for it. Watch it yourself.

Whoa. Are we in Tron?


  • The sun now rises in the west?
  • The dancers… wow. The costuming is the likes of which I’ve never seen. No, that’s not a compliment.
  • I got nothing else.
  • The set of the Xanadu club cost $1,000,000 to build. Playing on a 99-cent double-feature with Village People in Can’t Stop the Music, this inspired John Wilson to create the Razzie Awards, dishonoring worst achievements in film. It later won the first ever Worst Director Razzie Award for Robert Greenwald.
  • Famously received the one sentence review: “In a word, Xana-don’t.”
  • Ahh — Andy Gibb was originally cast to play Sonny, which explains my stepfather’s thinking he did play him.

Groovy Quotes

Kira: No questions, no lies.
Sonny: No questions, no truth, either.

Sonny: Aw, what the hell. Guys like me shouldn’t dream anyway.

Kira: In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree…
Danny McGuire: “Where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea.” Yes, Xanadu.

Danny McGuire: I’ve been known to twinkle a toe or two.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Moulin Rouge!
  • Grease
  • Can’t Stop the Music

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