Rock N Roll Movie: Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John
It's unlikely that Xanadu will hold the attention of most die-hard rock music lovers. Still, I stand behind my enthusiastic thumbs-up.
Xanadu is a 1980 American romantic musical fantasy film written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel and directed by Robert Greenwald. Starring: Olivia Newton-John as Kira (Terpsichore), Michael Beck as Sonny Malone, and Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire. Released by Universal studios. Running time: 96 minutes. Box office $22.8 million.
I was just a little girl the first time I saw this movie. Being released in 1980, that would make me 8 years old. Still in the very early stages of my life-long love affair with music, Xanadu was a little girl's ideal. Filled with pretty girls with billowy dresses, love, music, dancing, magic, animated sequences, and Greek mythology, for a fairy tale, I would put Xanadu up against any Disney movie. When I was much older, and watched the movie again, I loved it for the 'cheese factor' alone.
As a budget film with B-actors, it doesn't hold a candle to the likes of "Grease", also starring Olivia Newton-John. (technically a musical but re-made as a slammin' good rock n roll movie) And the animation sequences are hardly comparable to Pink Floyd's 'The Wall".
As far as rock n roll movies go, it's on the sweet, cutesy side. It's completely appropriate and family friendly, unlike so many other rock music movies.
The Greek muses incarnate themselves on Earth to inspire men to achieve. One of them, incarnated as a girl named Kira, encounters an artist named Sonny Malone. With the help of Danny McGuire, a man Kira had inspired forty years earlier, Sonny builds a huge disco roller rink.
Sonny Malone is a struggling artist who longs for success outside of his day job, painting large album covers for advertisements. The film begins with a broke Sonny. Having failed at his attempt as a freelance artist, Sonny returns to his job at AirFlo Records re-creating album covers at large scale.
After a beautiful woman collides with Sonny at the beach, kisses him, and then roller-skates away, Sonny is asked to paint a record cover for a group called "The Nine Sisters". When Sonny realizes the woman on the album cover is the same woman who kisses him earlier that day. Sonny becomes obsessed. After searching, he finds her at the same auditorium on the album cover - now abandoned. She introduces herself as, Kira- but tells Sonny nothing more. As it turns out, Kira is one of nine women who sprang to life from a mural near the beach.
On the beach, Daniel McGuire (Gene Kelly) befriends Sonny. Danny was a big-band orchestra leader in his younger days. Danny went into the construction industry after losing his 'muse' in the 1940s. The movie flashes back to a scene with Danny and someone who looks like Kira. Danny tells Sonny he will find his muse one day. Kira encourages Danny and Sonny to form a partnership and resurrect the abandoned auditorium from the album cover into a nightclub.
As you can probably guess, Kira and Sonny fall in love. Kira confesses to Sonny that she is actually Terpsichore, the muse of dance so being love is presents a problem. In fact, the other eight women that sprang to life from the mural in the beginning of the movie are her sisters and fellow muses. The local mural serves as a portal from Mt Olympus to earth. The nine sisters, or muses, visit Earth to inspire humans to pursue their dreams and talents. By falling in love with Sonny, Kira has violated the rules; muses are supposed to inspire without becoming attached. When her parents Zeus and Mnemosyne, learn of Kira's feelings, she is ordered back to Mt. Olympus.
After learning of Kira's return, a despondent Sonny discovers the mural and transports to Mt. Olympus to profess his love for Kira in a debate with Zeus. As the subject in question, Kira appears and joins the discussion. Kira confesses that her feelings are new to her and asks for one final night with Sonny so his night club dreams can come true. Reluctantly, Zeus allows Kira to return to Earth to be with Sonny for a "moment, or maybe forever."
The final scene shows Kira and her sister muses performing for a packed grand opening of Sonny's night club. The muses return to Mt. Olympus as a depressed Sonny realizes Kira must go. His depression is soothed when a waitress, at Danny's request, serves Sonny a drink - the waitress looks exactly like Kira! The film ends with the waitress and Sonny becoming acquainted.
Xanadu had a notable, and popular soundtrack that was perfectly suited for the film. Even if you've never seen the movie, you're familiar with more than a couple of these tracks. A few of these tracks are pop music classics and, possibly, more popular than the movie. I would be willing to bet that many people have no idea that these songs were from a movie soundtrack. Even if the easy listening sound of Olivia Newton-John does nothing for you, most rock music lovers are more than a bit familiar with the classic rock band Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.), whose tracks hit the movie theme right on the head! If I'm not mistaken, they're the only classic rock band that did a number with Olivia.
1 . Magic by Olivia Newton-John
2. Suddenly (Xanadu/Soundtrack Version) [feat. Cliff Richard] by Olivia Newton-John
3. Dancin' by Olivia Newton-John
4. Suspended In Time by Olivia Newton-John
5. Whenever You're Away From Me [feat. Gene Kelly] by Olivia Newton-John
6. I'm Alive by Electric Light Orchestra
7. The Fall by Electric Light Orchestra
8. Don't Walk Away by Electric Light Orchestra
9. All Over The World by Electric Light Orchestra
10. Xanadu (Xanadu Soundtrack Version) [feat. Electric Light Orchestra] by Olivia Newton-John
Although Xanadu only received 5/10 stars on IMDB, I loved it when I was young and I love it still today!
Granted, it was cheesy and the plot was thin - but it was brilliant for the early 80's. Yes. The acting was sub-standard, but the music and dancing was fantastic - and if you loved the movie way back then, these tracks will still get you on your feet. At the end of the day, isn't the music what we love most about rock n roll movies?
If you love movies about rock music as much as I do, Xanadu is must see.