Ah, the dear dead 70s, when disco was king. Too bad this movie came out in the dear dead 80s, when disco was not king. In fact, it came out at just the time when disco was being ridiculed in popular culture. Some movies probably couldn’t be a hit at any time but their given day. Saturday Night Fever, for example, probably wouldn’t have been a hit at any time other than the 70s, or the nostalgia-friendly 90s.
Can’t Stop the Music came out at precisely the wrong time for a disco “musical” (and to use this term is to give the word a very broad definition) and that is the least of its problems. It wouldn’t have been in a hit in any day or age. If Thomas Edison had rushed to the patent office with his movie camera and this on the film, they would have roughed him up and tossed him into the street. In fact, add up the quick facts on paper (Rosie, the woman in the “Bounty” commercials directs, the Village People sing, Bruce Jenner acts), and you’ll wonder why anyone dared make this movie.
In a nutshell: Saturday Night Fever–box office smash, even critical praise, and a top-selling soundtrack. Allan Carr, producer of Can’t Stop the Music , was also the producer of the hit Grease. Incidentally, I despise that movie and everything about it, but there’s no denying that it made serious cash. That’s why this sucker got made, and it’s probably why Allan Carr was able to keep going after it bombed. Subsequent efforts by Mr. Carr seem to indicate that his Grease success was a lucky shot.
Before we begin, one very strange factoid…I found a copy of this movie at Rogers Video under the Gay and Lesbian section. Ah, you know you’ve got KWAM material when they can’t even figure out where to stash the video at your local renter (try the trash guys). Sexuality is not a direct issue in this movie, though it does take on a bizarre subtext. It seems insulting to make it share shelf space with The Sound of Music in the Musical section, and although the results are terrifying, there’s no blood so it can’t go into Horror. Most of the movies in the G&L section feature leading characters that are gay or have homosexuality as a theme. I guess they thought, “Ah, the Village People were a gay singing group, let’s just toss it here and forget about it.” Doesn’t explain why they also store the tapes of the Britcom Absolutely Fabulous here, though.
The opening credits alone raise an eyebrow. We see a keyboard beneath a half-circle, showing New York City. Glittering credits identify this as an “An Allan Carr Production.” This is the last time such a credit will be taken seriously. As if this movie didn’t do enough damage, Carr followed this up with Grease 2 and Where the Boys Are 84. Mr. Carr has the distinction of being mentioned in Jan and Michael Stern’s Encyclopedia of Bad Taste as a result of films such as these.
Soon, we’re looking at a crowded record store. The PA calls Jack Morell to the cash. Jack (Steve Guttenberg) bops around the store on roller skates. He rolls up to the counter and asks his boss if he can leave on time tonight. “It’s practically a matter of life or death,” he says. It seems Mr. Morell has a chance to DJ at a local club. But Boss is not understanding. “As soon as we get these…” he pauses, looking at his customers, “…loonies out of here, we are taking inventory.” Well Boss man, if you want to get your customers out of here, insulting them is a good way to do it. Jack pleads some more, but Boss is adamant. Boss issues the ultimatum that if Jack isn’t here tonight, he’s out of a job.
“I am a composer,” announces Jack, “not a schlepper salesman,” getting on the PA to broadcast that he’s quitting. “My time is now!” he announces. Actually Steve, after this little career setback, your time will come several years later with Cocoon and Three Men and a Baby. First though, you’ll have to endure a string of Police Academy movies. Unaware of this, Jack says that the next time Boss does inventory, he will inventory the records of Jack Morell. And he’s absolutely right. Boss will have to inventory them, because people won’t buy them.
Jack skates out of the store. Guttenberg does not spend the entire movie on roller skates, but judging by his performance, it is possible that he does spend the entire movie on amphetamines. He squeaks and fidgets and squirms like a four-year-old on a sugar rush. Anyway, as Jack skates into the bright future, a song starts to play, and the main credits roll.
In my opinion, any ol’ bad movie can have lousy actors, a bad script and dopey dialogue. It takes a REAL bad movie to have awful credits. This credit sequence looks like it was filmed by your local municipal news station trying desperately to be hip. The screen splits into three shots. On the left and right, we get two different close ups of Jack, grinning like an idiot. The centre image shows Jack skating down the streets of NYC. Your irritation level isn’t quite at the point where you wish a Mack truck would come along to flatten Jack bringing this movie to a hasty conclusion, but give it time.
The song is “Sound of the City” and basically plays like a bad travelogue for New York. It describes the things you can do there. See the Yankees, ride the subway…it omits getting mugged in Central Park, though. The lyrics are inane (see IMMORTAL DIALOGUE), and sadly, this is one of the better songs in the movie.
really silly credits appear, too. “Cameo guest appearance by Leigh Taylor-Young.” Uh, you’re supposed to save it for a surprise. “Introducing Bruce Jenner.” Introducing? He’s an Olympic medallist, remember? “Milk Shake and Gallery Ensembles For Village People Designed by Theoni V. Alderedge.” That one is so out there I can’t even think of anything snotty to say about it.
And finally, a credit you’ve not seen before and are unlikely to ever see again: “Directed by Nancy Walker.” Nancy Walker is probably best known as Rhoda Morganstern’s mom on the TV show Rhoda and as Rosie, the Bounty Lady. You know, she runs a diner, doofus customers spill stuff, but she uses “The quicker picker upper” to clean up the mess. Somebody saw those commercials and apparently said, “Hey, wouldn’t she be a natural to direct a musical with Bruce Jenner and the Village People?”
A side note: Andrea Martin has since replaced Walker in the Bounty commercials. Martin is a talented comedienne who deserves much better. Somebody please get her some more work. Thank you.
Some highlights of this zany credit sequence…Construction Worker Village Person is seen briefly rising from an open sewer (very appropriate for this movie). Steam blows up in his face. You can easily see the cut where they spliced in the shot of the steam rising with his emerging from the hole (they were obviously filmed separately). We also see a shot of Jack’s roommate Samantha (Valerie Perrine) drawing a moustache on a bus ad. The model featured in the ad is her.
We also see three buxom women on roller skates, each wearing a tight T-shirt. The first one has the word “San” printed on it, the second “Fran” and the third “Cisco.” Aren’t we in New York? Perhaps this is some kind of clever foreshadowing. The movie eventually does end up in San Francisco (well, the movie eventually uses stock footage of San Francisco). Wait, maybe there’s a parallel being drawn between the three buxom gals and the three weird sisters of MacBeth, who divined his fate! Or am I reading too much into this?
Also in this credit sequence is “Music Composed and Produced By Jacques Morali.” Hmm…and Guttenberg’s character is “Jack Morell.” Coincidence? I think not (see AFTERTHOUGHTS for further discussion).
Eventually the song dies down (much like the genre that spawned it). Jack skates through a park to meet Samantha. He does this by skating up behind her and grabbing her ass, a scene Guttenberg manages to portray with enthusiasm. She squeaks and turns around laughing, instead of spraying Jack with mace. We will soon learn that they are not lovers, but platonic friends, making that greeting seem even less appropriate. I generally don’t greet my friends my grabbing their asses, and for that, they are grateful.
In this movie, nobody speaks their dialogue so much as squeals it. It makes conversations very hard to follow at times. In this one, Sam and Jack sound like two porpoises conversing. Listening carefully, we learn Sam’s just quit her modeling job, so she plans to eat as much as she wants. Sam apparently was quite a successful model (at one point another character refers to her as “The Garbo of Models”).
One question: if she’s a retired model, one who is as famous as the movie claims, what the hell is she doing hanging out with Jack? He’s a cashier at a record store and occasional DJ (now just an occasional DJ) and a little out of her crowd. If she can quit her job and still live in her apartment (a large one in the Village), it seems a fair assumption she’s got some money. Why is she letting her stay with him? To help him with his career plans, apparently. It would be like Cindy Crawford helping me with my career plans. Hey, I’d appreciate it, but I’m not holding my breath.
Sam is a little worried about Jack quitting. Jack says that she may have ended her glamorous career, but his is just beginning. “Hey, I’m in show business!” he cries (Oh Steve, if only you knew!). During this conversation, I swear a windsurfer breezes through the pair. It’s moments like this that you think this movie is a dream you’re having while under anesthetic. Some “playful” shenanigans break out, as Sam pulls Jack along on his skates. Sam is doing all the work pulling him, a wonderful metaphor for their relationship.
Arriving at Sam’s spacious apartment, we see that someone is waiting for her. It’s one of the Village People, Felipe (Felipe Rose). This is supposed to be the story of how the Village People got together, so they all use their real names. Felipe is dressed in a campy Indian costume, complete with warpaint and a big honking headdress. Why? Don’t worry, Sam will explain it later. Not. Notice I don’t say “Native American.” He’s dressed like a Hollywood Indian from a by-the-numbers western. To call that Native American would just be insulting. I just wonder how he gets along with the Cowboy Village Person.
Sam asks what he’s doing here. All hands brace for impact, as for the first time, one of the Village People tries to act.
“My-TV-broke,” he says nasally, as though he has a clothespin on his nose. “I-crawled-in-through-the-window-it’s-all-right-isn’t-it?” Needless to say, nobody is forgetting Robert Preston in The Music Man as a result of this performance. Actually, he sounds a lot like a 1st grader wearing an apple costume reciting something about the four food groups.
to his entering the apartment through the window, Sam responds “Sure, why not? This is neighborly New York.” Oh is that how it works? I’m a Canadian who’s never been to New York, but now that I know this quaint American custom, I think when I go to NYC I’ll just stick my head through a few apartment windows looking for new friends. Let’s see how many windows I sneak through before a) getting arrested, or b) getting a high-caliber haircut.
More discussion goes on about Jack’s recent quitting. Sam is still worried about what he will do for money. Felipe says she shouldn’t be so materialistic. Yeah Sam, why worry about any silly little details like whether or not he can pay his share of the rent? Sam says it’s the way of the world. “I didn’t event it, I’m just in it,” she says.
This line inspires Jack. “I didn’t invent I’m just in it,” he repeats, impressed. “I’m just in it, I’m just in it,” he “sings” and then starts having an epileptic fit. Oh wait, he’s just trying to dance. It’s very easy to make that mistake in this movie. From this display Jack’s ability to compose music, never mind compose marketable music, becomes a tiny bit suspect. He has about as much rhythm and an ear for a beat as a squash. If they wanted an actor to play a supposed musical wunderkind, hiring someone who can sing and dance might have been in order.
During his dancing, he repeatedly strikes the counter, not in time to the beat, I might add. Sam worries that he’ll damage it, but with his new success he says “I’ll buy you ten counters.” Then he promises a kitchen, and a restaurant. How about just a pair of earplugs?
During this conversation, Sam has been watering plants with a small garden house, and accidentally sprays Felipe. Lots of accidents befall people around Sam (sadly not the kind the Mob arranges), and each time one happens, she shrieks “OH I’M SORRY!” in an extremely high-pitched voice. The first time it happened, she shattered a mug of Coke I was drinking from. The Coke and glass fell on the laptop I was using to make notes, and now I am suing the makers of this film for damages.
Felipe says “Just what I need, a summer shower.” He begins doing a “rain dance.” He concludes it with this weird whistle/hoot that’s supposed to sound like some kind of Indian call. It has obviously been dubbed onto the track. Lip-syncing isn’t a strong point in this movie, so they simply cut away to another shot of Sam trying to talk to Jack. The first time you hear this sound effect, you wonder where the hell it came from. Only later do you realize Felipe was supposed to have sung it. He does it periodically, just in case your blood pressure isn’t high enough. I must admit that this is something that movie does quite well. Just as you’ve forgotten about that damn annoying call, bang, there it is.
Sam wants to have “talk time” with Jack. She seems dubious, but supportive. Jack confides that his mother thinks he’s a musical genius, and that wrestling isn’t fake. All right, I admit, I added the bit about wrestling. Jack believes that Benny Murray, owner of the club he’s DJing at, will make him the full-time DJ once he hears his music. “People are going to start collapsing and big record company’s going to come crawling,” enthuses Jack. Well, he’s right about the collapsing part.
Now, not a lot of DJs play their own music. They’re supposed to play the latest music that fits the particular scene of wherever it is they’re playing. It’s pretty unlikely that execs cruise the local dance clubs looking for new acts to sign. Maybe Jack can write a song, but his knowledge of the music industry seems rather flimsy.
Jack swears that tonight he will prove his music is good, or will go back to dental school (apparently, this exactly what Guttenberg was doing before going into movies, according to Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello’s book Bad Movies We Love). He gets all solemn. Is he going to…Uh-huh. He’s going to say it. He gets all puppy-eyed and asks for just one thing: “A chance.” All together now: Aaaawwwwwww… No.
Sam says she will go to the club and listen to his music if he’s serious about going back to school. Enter Felipe. “Ready for another moment of truth?” he asks. What exactly was the first moment of truth? The second turns out to be that the hose has spilled all over the rug. “Oh no, it must be a mess!” she squeals.
Let’s pause and look up a word apparently not in the filmmakers’ vocabulary.
di(rect-or: noun, one who directs.
See, apparently they thought it would be okay to let first-time director Nancy Walker do this picture because all a director really does is yell “action” and “cut.” No, done correctly (and studio politics aside), the director supervises just about everything, in one way or another. If dialogue doesn’t sound right, the director may get the scriptwriters to rewrite the scene right then and there. If a costume just doesn’t look right, the director may order it changed.
The director not only has to direct camera action, but the actors themselves. If Walker did this, it doesn’t show. The actors are constantly screeching their lines, stumbling all over each other’s cues, making most of the dialogue totally inaudible. Mind you, no big loss considering the quality of the script, but that’s beside the point. When Perrine, Guttenberg et al started overacting badly and badly overacting, Walker should have stopped and said “Guys, tone it down a notch or ten.”
Far too many scenes in this movie have performers running on, babbling their dialogue, and running off leaving you clueless as to what happened. Now add to this some sloppy editing and cutting, you’ve got a movie so poorly made that you wonder if the scenes were edited together in the right order. In fact, if I were to splice the scenes together at random, it would be just as coherent and tightly plotted.
Never mind those silly details, though. I know you’re all dying to hear about the carpet. As Felipe leaves to change and Jack leaves to do, oh who cares, we see Sam. She’s crouched on the floor, and doesn’t hear Jack saying good-bye. She’s too busy trying to dry the carpet. “Dry darling, dry!” she pleads. She tries to sweet talk it into drying. This gripping scene is reminiscent of Lady MacBeth rubbing her hands and murmuring “Out damned spot” in MacBeth–after a few beers and a toke or two.
Cut to a guy wearing a floral print jacket with glitter, shoving a machine to get cigarettes. It’s Benny Murray, owner of the club. Benny is played by Jack Weston, who apparently has been in a few good movies, but I say that any career that includes appearances in Palm Springs Weekend and Short Circuit 2 is forever barred From the Embarrassed Actor’s Scale. Even Guttenberg had the sense to stay out of Short Circuit 2.
Sam is walking up the stairs of the club with friend Alicia (Altovise Davis). Alicia isn’t a character so much as a plot mechanism. Whenever the movie wants to introduce a new character, it’s done by way of Alicia. Her other function is that she gets a few of the spare lame jokes.
Alicia marvels at the line-up to get inside. “They line-up to get into my dry-cleaner,” says Sam, apparently reciting dialogue from a different movie. She attributes this all to “Big Apple Psychology.” There, that explains it. When the movie gets like this, it helps to treat it like anesthetic. Don’t fight it, let it wash over you. You’ll soon be asleep and it will all be over before you know it.
Felipe is serving drinks at the club, and true to his word from the last scene, he’s changed. Specifically, he’s wearing Indian stuff with slightly different colours. This must be his formal attire. Felipe informs the ladies that Jack hasn’t started playing his stuff yet, and they’re disappointed. They’re also crazy. This is a good thing!
Benny Murray recognizes Sam, and schmooze hound he is, starts warming up to her. “You know, I’ve seen you plastered all over New York,” he says. Either he’s seen the ads she’s posed for, or perhaps he’s going to invite her to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. This movie is shot and directed so badly that it can’t portray anything convincingly, but I think that choice of words was deliberate. Sam responds “Don’t spread it around,” which would fit with the double entendre. It’s impossible to say though.
“This place is getting to be a regular Studio 54,” says Benny, and instantly a “Made in the 70s” stamp appears on the film. He mentions how the guests are getting more upscale, as Calvin Klein’s chauffeur was here with the insignificant assistant of some big 70s designer whose name I can’t pick out. The music is compounding the movie’s problem with coherent dialogue.
“How chic!” says Sam. This registers a slightly blip on the humor scale, like dropping a coffee mug registers a slight blip on the Richter scale. I might also point out the in the name of getting this one blip of humor, the filmmakers have sort of speculated that this club kinda sucks, or at least is no big deal. This also sabotages their earlier plot point that Jack will get a big record deal as a result of playing music here. Hope the blip was worth it.
“Relax! Boogie!” offers Benny. “Have yourself a good time!” I took his advice and hit the “Stop” button and took a little breather at this point. Suddenly I was having a much better time.
All right, Sam asks Felipe to put her purse behind the bar (they’re going to need a coat check if they want to be a regular Studio 54). She wants to go dancing. In a bit of humor (a very little bit), she “orders” a man, and begins dancing. Her dancing, like most in this movie, consists of moving her shoulders back and forth, and swaying her rear end. At one point, the shot of this “dancing” includes nothing but her partner pushing her back across the floor. Is this supposed to be erotic? It’s not clear if they’re dancing, if he’s trying to push her to a secluded area so he can criminally assault her, or if he needs to go to the restroom and he’s trying to push her out of the way.
During this dance scene we also catch glimpses of Construction Worker Village Person, and Cowboy Village Person. Benny tries to push some guy to photograph Sam, but she heads to Jack’s DJ booth, and probably got just her behind as she climbs the stairs. Oddly, a Polaroid of her posterior doesn’t surface later in the scene for some cheap laughs.
Going into the booth, she remarks “This is certainly more fun than dental school!” Sam, I think the phrase you’re looking for is “This is about as much fun as a root canal.”
“You are looking at a King in his castle,” cries Jack. He notes how the equipment he has in front of him can “change the disposition” of everyone in the club. Different voltage settings on a torture device do much the same thing.
Again, the music is masking the already cocaine and Extasy-inspired dialogue, so when Sam says “I should have known that when the music went mad it would be you at the controls,” I had to rewind the movie three or four times before I realized she wasn’t saying “when the music went bad it would be you at the controls.” Do I really need to mention which version is more applicable?
“They’re happy,” says Jack, looking at the audience. “They’ve forgotten everything that worries them.” They’re paid extras, Jack. A strange moment follows. Jack gives her a cassette, which he says is for her. “Go dance,” he says. Now, I can’t tell if he gave that cassette directly to her, or if he took it back to play it (Sam doesn’t seem to have it in subsequent scenes). Cassettes are almost never used to play music at any professional gig (than again, this movie needs to be ten times better to be called “amateur”). The sound quality isn’t as good as vinyl, and they are not as easy to cue. Again, we see a less than perfect understanding of how the music biz works.
Jack begins to play his song. Out on the dance floor, Samantha mouths something to him. It could be “I love it,” or “I love you,” or “Oh, f*ck you.” My vote’s for the last one, considering the song. It’s called “Samantha,” and obviously it’s dedicated to her. There are plenty of pop songs dedicated to specific girls’ names–you can probably write down at least a dozen if you sat and thought about it. “Hello, Mary Lou,” “Lola,” “Barbara Anne.”
Unfortunately, the Samanthas of the world are going to have to hold on a little longer for a good song dedicated to their namesake that they can play at their weddings. This one has lyrics like “I like that wiggle that you got in your jeans,” and “I love your lips you know they’re turning me on.” Jack and Sam are supposed to be platonic friends. But hey, I guess they had a song handy, so they used it. Particularly amusing is the chorus, which begins with a stuttering “S-s-s-s-Samantha,” as if Ken from A Fish Called Wanda were singing it.
During this musical interlude, we see more bad dancing, and even worse cutting. One cut is so bad that it looks one woman is ripping off a wig on the dance floor. It’s actually two different women closely edited together, but it sure looked weird until I rewound it to see what was actually happening. Movie theatres of course don’t have rewind buttons, which is why you’re supposed to edit things right the first time.
There’s also some soft-core humping-style dance “moves,” supposed to be erotic like the tango. It looks more like people are playing “Twister.” The song concludes with Felipe doing that stupid whistle with his back to the camera again.
Up in the booth, a young man comes in and says “Hey your stuff is terrific.” As Ken pointed out in The Girl in Gold Boots, movies which have people who are supposed to be artistically gifted always have the supporting cast enthusing about how great their talents are. This is because what we see on screen doesn’t support this.
Another common trick is to have any participants, such as the audience, break out in overly enthusiastic applause, cheering, and whistling. This is particularly common in performance movies such as Staying Alive and the Streisand remake of A Star is Born. This movie isn’t competent enough to pull this trick. The audience in this case looks as though it couldn’t give a toss what was being played–Dance music, a polka, three minutes of white noise, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”…
Jack says “Thank you my son,” lending evidence to my theory that this was made from the scripts of three or four bad movie scripts shuffled together like a deck of cards. Jack has him take over, then rushes out to receive the praise. Not surprisingly, there’s only one fan.
Sam seems to be converted. She wants to know if he has more songs. Jacks says he does. “They’re all at various stages of completion.” She wants him to assemble a demo tape, which they will take to a record company.
“There’s more to it than that,” he protests. He also says “nobody has time for anybody” and won’t give him a shot. He doesn’t add that there’s the small matter of him having very little talent. This seems to be a strangely subdued Jack. Earlier he thought that all he had to do was DJ a few songs at the club and bang, instant millionaire songwriter. Now that he has (apparently) been a hit, you’d think this delusional man would be even more convinced of his talent.
Sam says that while he was flunking out of school, she was dating all sorts of big names in the industry. “Mama has connections!” she cries. And Mama apparently is perfectly willing to prostitute herself in the name of his career. That’s sweet. What are friends for?
The next scene, Jack is in his room, composing a song (see IMMORTAL DIALOGUE). Jack’s setup seems to consist entirely of some sheets to write music on, a keyboard, and a pair of headphones. I take all my snarky comments about him being a musical genius back. He is. How else could he compose the song “Samantha,” complete with full musical arrangement and singers with just a keyboard and headphones?
The phone rings. Jack asks Sam to get it. Hey, he’s the houseboy, and since I don’t think that music career is going to be very lucrative, he better start doing windows again real soon.
Sam picks up the phone. She’s in the middle of some nondescript chore. She has her hands full so when she says “Hello” the receiver is nowhere near her mouth. It’s also the director’s job to spot and reshoot things like this. You really have to suspect that they used all the footage they shot for this movie. This would explain the quality, and the excruciating running time–two hours.
On the other end of the phone is Lulu Brecht (Marilyn Sokol). “I am making this call under extreme duress,” she says. “I laugh, I cry, I go on welfare.” She must be predicting her career after this movie. “I am an unmarried unemployed woman.”
Sam asks Lulu what’s wrong. That last line sort of explains things, but Lulu says that Sydney threatened her with the sack unless she made this call. “Me, who has given that sack the best years of her life,” she moans. A word of explanation, just in case. The phrase “to give someone the sack” is UK slang for firing someone. I’ve not heard the phrase used in North America very often. I’m guessing the scriptwriters weren’t familiar with it either, because with that definition in mind, just try to make sense of “Me, who has given that sack the best years of her life.”
Sydney (Tammy Grimes) speaks for us all by bellowing “Lulu shut up and give me that phone.” Lulu thrusts it her way. Somehow, Sydney hurts her hand, and begins moaning in pain. As she does, the office chair she’s sitting in starts spinning. “Stop me!” she demands, which Lulu does. This is supposed to be a slapstick moment. It resembles something Charlie Chaplin might have done when he was three.
Sydney seems to be Sam’s former agent. She composes herself, and then delivers another of the movie’s lines that are so bad they hit you like a smack in the face.
“How fat are you?” she asks.
“Enormous!” cries Sam. “I’ve blown up like the Hindenburg.” She whacks a wooden piece of furniture with a stick and rope. I can’t wait until they invent a labor saving device that will whack furniture with a stick and rope for us. It really is a tedious chore.
Sydney wants Sam to come back to work for her, but Sam’s enjoying her retirement. Sydney says that she made Sam the biggest model of the 70s, and hints that Sam owes her. Sam says “The 70s are dead and gone. The 80s are going to be something wonderfully new and different, and so am I.” Bold prediction. With sensibilities like that, you have to wonder why it’s wallowing in a dying 70s musical genre.
“You are passing up the chance of a lifetime!” growls Sydney. Yeah, that’s what they said when Valerie wondered whether to sign onto this film or not. Sam doesn’t bite, and the call ends, but not before Sam invites Lulu over to see her new place. Does this mean that the she just met Jack and had him move into this place, or he’s been staying with her awhile and came here with him? If so, again–why, why, why?
Sydney continues to plot (the closest thing to plot we get). She wants Sam to appear in a milk commercial. She vows to deliver Samantha Simpson. “To the diary association?” asks Lulu, perplexed. “We are going to make milk more glamorous than champagne,” promises Sydney. She’s also going to recommend that milk be put in a new bottle, and that they cork it. Wow, she must be one powerful agent. This scene may have been meant to be funny, but it’s hard to separate this movie’s comic moments from its genuine convictions.
Back at the apartment, Sam is doing another lame chore. She is banging a bucket. I hope they invent a device that does this, too. In fact, they should combine it with the device that whacks furniture with wood and rope, so you have one convenient multi-purpose machine. And hey, make it fire shoes at the wall, and we’ll all have significantly more leisure time during the day.
“Sam, you gotta hear this!” says Jack. He’s written another song, which he plays for her. He starts singing along, the “words” not even vaguely matching the beat of the song. Jack asks Sam what she thinks. Her response? One word, and it begins with “S.”
“Sweet,” she says. Had you going there for a minute, didn’t I?
Another awkward edit as we cut between two views of his dismayed reaction. “Sweet?” he says. “Johann Strauss wrote suites.” A clever play on words. But actually, Strauss was famous for waltzes. They try to cover this by having Jack say “Suites are for waltzes,” but it doesn’t quite jibe. Oh yeah, another definition time.
ed(it-or: noun, one who edits.
It’s the editor’s job, under direction from the director, to seamlessly edit scenes together. Therefore, you shouldn’t jump suddenly from one shot of Guttenberg to another without some kind of logical camera progression. For example, jumping out to see both Sam and Jack in the frame. When both shots show Jack basically doing nothing, it looks awkward. A first time director might not know this, but the editor should. At any rate, they both must have seen how bad it looked, because anyone watching it can tell there’s something wrong, even if they can’t put it into words.
Sam says she can’t hear the music because of his voice. He asks about the lyrics. What lyrics? Jack was just baaing along to the music, like Disco Sheep. She says “The song may be wonderful, but your voice sounds like a cry for help.” Finally, some insightful musical criticism. Incidentally, that music sounds like the thing that’s making the man cry for help.
Sam speculates that they need singers. Jack says nobody sings, everybody dances. That’s right Jackie, you musical expert you. Look all the instrumentals that have tied up the Billboard charts. Like, uh…uhmmm… Incidentally, if nobody sings, why were you worried about the lyrics, anyway?
During part of this conversation you can easily spot Guttenberg waiting for Perrine to remember her lines. Taking her cue from the Suzanne Sommers Three’s Company School of Acting, she says to the camera “This calls for some very serious plotting and scheming.” She then announces “I’m going for a Baskin Robbins rush.”
Next scene, she’s walking out of Baskin & Robbins, and spots Felipe at a market. His clothing is marginally more subdued. He’s wearing a single feather instead of a bonnet. Sam asks how he is and he says “C, D minus.” No Felipe, she asked you how you were, not what you got in high school music. Apparently, he took his feathers in to be oiled, and he’s just wearing a loaner now. Well, the comedy part of this musical/comedy is up to snuff with the musical portions.
“You think you’ve got problems?” she asks. “Jack needs singers.” Both of you stop. You’re breaking my heart. It’s a tragi-comedy now I see. Sam wants to know where she can get professional singers for free. “Professional and for free,” laughs Felipe. “That you ain’t gonna find.” She asks Felipe if he sings.
Now obviously, no movie could be so corny as to have one character ask “Do you sing,” and then have the other character do a double take and say “DO I SING?” and than start singing. No movie, except this one right here.
“DO I SING?” cries Felipe. “When I’m calling yoooo-ooo” he croons, and adds that damn whistle again. This time he’s facing the camera, so we have to see him lip-sync it. The lip-syncing is almost as good as a Godzilla movie. Sam tells Felipe to go to her apartment for a pre-arranged song/recording session. See, this movie introduces problems only to have them solved 30 seconds later. That’s why it lurches on for most of its running time with no plot.
By the way, old-time movie fans will recognize Felipe’s choice of song as the “Indian Love Call” from Rose Marie, a 1936 Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy flick. They were what passed for camp back during the Depression. It’s nice to see a movie that is boldly pioneering new levels of camp pay tribute to its roots.
In a seamless transition (picture the cinematic equivalent of driving your car over the curb), Sam starts an inane monologue about how you just never know if the people you’re acquainted with can sing. Suddenly, the Cowboy Village Person (Randy Jones) is walking next to her, not Felipe. He agrees, and then begins singing “Dry Bones” (“Head bone’s connected to the neck bone”). This is apparently to prove that he can’t sing.
“Ping,” says Sam wisely, and then invites him to the gathering at her place. Sam seems to have bought some strange ice cream, too. She’d taken bites out of it earlier, but now it’s whole again. Cigarettes, candles and ice cream, Miss Director. Watch for them, they’re continuity headaches.
Ping? Did you say ping?
Next, she’s telling some guy with a clothes rack about the gathering, and he thinks it’s the dumbest idea he’s ever heard. Hey, I like this guy already. He says that forming groups in your backyard “went out with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney on the late show.” This gets Sam thinking.
In the very next scene, she’s talking to Construction Worker Village Person (David Hodo). He always catches Rooney and Garland on the late show, he says. How convenient. This group gathering stuff is hard work. She’s been at it a whole three minutes and only has three members. CWVP sings in commercials, but longs for the big time. Is he serious about singing? “Fame…fortune…platinum records…It’s every boy’s dream.” Cue music.
Now, musicals are hard to put together well. Some of the most awkward moments in a musical are the ones building up to a song and dance number. It’s difficult to do without making it look forced, or cheesy, or ridiculously staged. Our director cleverly sidesteps this problem by simply inserting a musical number. One moment, dialogue, next moment, singing. Construction Worker Village Person simply starts to imagine a musical number. That’s creative.
This particular song features CWVP singing a ditty called “I Love You to Death.” The set for the musical, since it’s happening in a person’s mind and the sky is the limit, is what appears to be an elaborate set of pipes and monkey bars. That’s it. Dancers in red sequined dresses and heels writhe in and out of the bars. They throw glitter at him. Occasionally, they scratch and bite him. One steps on his hand with her heels. Some rip his shirt. He pulls some hair. Is this a dance number or a Cat Fight scene from a Women in Prison flick?
This song is a typical example of what’s wrong with the soundtrack and dance numbers. First, it has nothing to do with what characters are feeling in the movie. Most musicals use songs in part as means of expressing what characters are feeling or intending to do. If it doesn’t, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it takes a skilled filmmaker to make it click. This song, like all the others in the movie, doesn’t convey any kind of emotion or feeling, not even lust.
Second, the lyrics consist mainly of CWVP repeating “I Love You to Death” about 34,892 times. Third, the cutting is so bad, catching glimpses of dancers not dancing, but striking poses (when they’re actually all the way in the frame). And finally, well, it sucks. Disco is uh…not to all tastes, to put it diplomatically. But if even if you hate disco, thirty seconds of this music is enough to make you long for the Bee Gees.
Our musical number ends with CWVP running into what appears to be the Time Tunnel (cheeseball old sci-fi series. Catch it on late night TV) and suddenly coming to. The bad cinematography coupled with the bad acting makes the scene look like a character in a porno movie waking up from a fantasy about a threesome. Anyway, he’s good enough for Sam, and gets invited to the shindig.
Later, we see Lulu coming out a store called the Erotic Baker. In retrospect, this should send chills down your spine, but more on the Divine Miz L in a minute. Sydney pulls up in a cab. Another, older woman comes out of the Erotic Baker carrying…a loaf of bread. It’s not particularly erotic as bread goes, but anyway. Seeing Sydney bending over as she futzes with something in the cab, the woman hits Sydney across the butt with the bread. Wow, the filmmakers really have a talent for adding a natural and humorous spin to those mundane every day occurrences, don’t they?
Sydney, showing remarkable poise, stands, grabs the bread, and hits her back. She drops the bread back into the lady’s arms, and then walks off. Says it all really. I’d say that this humorous interlude was added to pad out time…but this movie is two hours long.
And now ladies and gentlemen, let’s meet Olympic Gold Medallist Bruce Jenner in his movie debut as Ron White, a conservative tax lawyer who will become Sam’s love interest. With a Luke Skywalker haircut and wearing an almost baby blue suit which reminds me of the one I wore to First Communion, mere words cannot express just how out of place he looks here. Now admittedly, this movie is so patchwork that it looks like maybe three or four equally bad movies edited together, but trust me, Brucie doesn’t belong in any of them.
In fact, Bruce looks like he knows he has no business being in front of the camera. That expression on his face seems to suggest he’s thinking “Gee, I don’t think I’m doing very well, but the movie people said I could be here, and they know what they’re doing, so it must be all right.” Bruce, if only you knew. You could write the script, direct, compose the soundtrack and do the choreography. You could hardly do a worse job than the movie people.
Bruce makes his debut in one of those scenes in this movie that will have you staring in confusion. First, he’s carrying a small box. Just in case we don’t notice this box, a young woman passing by says “Nice box.” Ron giggles. Oh those wacky New Yorkers. Fortunately, he doesn’t return the compliment, avoiding crude humor. Next, he sees a moped knock over an old lady. “Oh no! She got hit!” he says through his nose.
Going to help her, the old lady gets up, brandishing a gun. “Don’t move, sh*thead,” she says. She begins to rob him in. In the middle of Greenwich Village. In the middle of the street. During what looks to be early afternoon. Uh-huh. Non-New Yorkers have heard about how supposedly uncaring New Yorkers are, but nobody commits a blatant robbery like this. If for no other reason than criminals don’t want to be recognized. She sits on the back of a moped, and the driver takes off. Ron growls and scowls as she goes. I suspect they had some audio problems while recording this scene live and had to get the actors back in to redub their dialogue, because the lips aren’t synced. Hey, it’s a grand old musical when they can’t sync the dialogue, never mind the singing.
When the scene concludes, you find yourself asking “What was the point of that?” Here’s our theory. It was supposed to be funny. Bruce Jenner is an athlete, and although he doesn’t look like a bruiser like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he would of course be physically fit. I guess it’s supposed to be ironic that a little old lady robbed the young and able Bruce Jenner. Tell you what, with jokes like this, I’ll just save my laughter up for the end of the movie and let it out all at once, okay?
Another pointless scene follows as Sydney gets into a phone booth and dials. It’s a rotary dial phone (kids, ask your parents!) With just three numbers, she stops dialing and expects to listen. Then, her fingernail gets caught in the dial. Har har. Stop it. You’re killing me.
All right, one of the longest scenes in the movie follows. Also the most unnecessary. It lasts over 20 minutes, and you can trim it down to a third at least (see definition for Editor). The scene is supposed to introduce some new characters, and let us hear the newly formed group. But there’s so much filler, particularly with the non-funny funny bits, it drags on and on and on…Watching it is like watching someone bleed to death.
It all starts with Felipe and Jack moving an amp. Sam is cooking. She asks Felipe to get a blue wheel Christmas decoration for the recording session. Jack protests that it’s just a recording session. A recording session in someone’s backyard? In New York? That’ll produce quality sound. Anyway, Sam wants magic in the atmosphere and hopes that it will rub off on the tape. I guess they’re recording Christmas Carols.
Unexpectedly, Tim Curry appears in the movie. Funny, didn’t see his name in the credits…Oh wait a minute, it’s Lulu. In her first scene Lulu was wearing a skirt, and her hair looked slightly longer. This made her look much more effeminate than she does now. With her hair up, and in a blue and white dress that looks like something a woman four times her age might wear today, Lulu now bears an uncanny resemblance to Tim Curry, especially as Doctor Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
She’ll spend most of her time on screen lusting after everything that moves. Considering the multisexuality of Doc Furter, this makes the resemblance even stronger. I swear, you keep waiting to hear her burst out singing “I’m a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.” She doesn’t, which is a pity, because even the weakest tune from Rocky Horror is about a hundred times better than the best in Please Stop the Music.
Lulu sizes up the mostly naked Felipe. “You tell him I’ll make up for the indignities they suffered in Roots,” she vamps. Watching the lusty Lulu is like having your grandparents hit on you. It’s about the most perverse and unerotic thing you can imagine. Lulu seems to go after anything too. She probably sees sexual possibilities in her breakfast cereal. Now, about the Roots comment. Felipe doesn’t actually look Native American, but Black. Now, was this supposed to be a humorous misidentification of oppressed minorities, or is Lulu acknowledging that he is Black? Oh, why do I even ask?
Sam meanwhile is deciding between relish and mustard, and eventually decides on mustard. It turns out she’s making lasagna (?!?). She accidentally drops her contact lens in, which of course she squealingly over-reacts to. Lulu advises her to be original and leave it in. “Call it Lasanga Crunch.” How much farther to some actual humor is it, Papa Smurf? “Not far now.”
Sam doesn’t find the contact, but instead decides to “crack the whip on the boys.” Lulu smirks “Into S&M, eh?” I’m shuddering at these words. Lulu, all bad movie fans are masochists at heart.
In the backyard, Sam suggests Jack hand out the lyrics “while they’re in the mood.” Jack says he ran out of stationary and was unable to make copies. Wow, Mr. Genius Composer sure came prepared. Sam suggests he use the paper napkins. I guess this is what would have happened if Ed Wood had decided to make musicals. Sam says nobody eats until she hears music. But that will make them lose their appetites!
All right, some of the Village People gather around Jack, who explains the setup. His music is in 4/4 time, which is like totally unheard of for modern pop music. Jack says they’ll record the rehearsal, and overdub it. More authentic music industry lingo! Guttenberg begins baaing along to the music again. Maybe we should call this Ewe Can’t Stop the Music. Hahaha! I slay me!
Back in the kitchen, Lulu is complaining. “Sam, this place is starting to look like a Terrarium.” Sam says that people and animals are too demanding. The only successful relationship she can maintain is with a plant. “Hmmm…how bizarre,” purrs Lulu. Since watching this movie is turning me into vegetable, I’m worried Lulu’s going to set her sights on me next.
Sam’s also “discovered the joys of housework.” Lulu’s response can be found in IMMORTAL DIALOGUE. Now talk turns to Samantha’s ex, Steve Waits, a record company president. Smell a plot point coming up? Sam reveals she had to make an appointment to break up with him, and that he “didn’t bat an eye.” Instead, he kept talking on two phones, trying to sign Rod Stewart. This isn’t the last time this name is dropped in the picture. I’m surprised Stewart didn’t sue to get his name taken out.
Apparently Steve had a breakdown, but Sam says it was just an excuse to write-off a trip to the Bahamas. What a jerk, huh? I guess she should probably remove that convenient photo of him from her shelf.
Lulu notices that Sam is straining the sauce through a small sieve, and asks what she’s doing. Sam says “Do you think I am going to serve an expensive contact lens to that crowd?” That’s right, Sam. Save contact lenses for when good company comes over.
Anyway, they decide to “check up on the Vienna Boys Choir.” Lulu brings out a bowl of unidentified food, possibly salad, possibly Quaaludes. Spotting Felipe, she winks and comes on to him in the most obvious manner. Felipe winks back (see AFTERTHOUGHTS for more discussion).
Jack takes Lulu aside and says he’s really nervous. “What if this doesn’t work out?” Lulu tells him not to worry. “Auntie Lulu has a great relaxer direct from Mother Nature.” She reaches into her dress and pulls out a joint. No, not a freak out scene! No! Anything but that!
“You have some of this and I’ll have some of yours,” says Lulu. Impressively, Jack doesn’t flee in terror, but instead asks what she means. “Please,” she says. “With all of the plants Sam’s got around here I’ll take some of the home-grown stuff.” Phew, she’s just talking about drugs. I was so worried that “I’ll have some of yours” meant…okay, let’s just not pursue this line of thought. Why Lulu wants to get high smoking Rhododendron leaves is anyone’s guess though. Jack asks if Lulu grows her own. “Does the postman ring twice?” she asks. Hey, I think I’ll turn this off and go watch that movie right now (the 1946 version).
In the kitchen, Sam is still straining for the contact. There’s a knock at the door. She grabs a Kleenex and begins wiping a spot on her blouse while she opens the door. Heeere’s Ronnie! “Your sister sent you a cake,” he says, flustered. “An old lady just robbed me!” Sam doesn’t seem that interested, and lazily asks him to run through that again. Then she asks how Ron knows her sister. Ron reveals that he lived next door to her in St. Louis.
To give you an idea of how poorly plotted this movie is, the first time I saw this scene I though Ron and Sam were already involved. Their relationship throughout the movie hardly progresses, so I thought they’d already established it previously. Nope, it appears it’s just beginning. So Ron apparently came all the way from St. Louis to deliver a cake from her sister.
“She must have been 80 years old,” Ron rants. “Oh, that’s not my sister,” replies Sam. “I mean she’s older than I am…” How much farther to some actual humor, Papa Smurf? “Not far now.”
Ron complains that the robber got his wallet, his class ring, and his Phi Beta Kappa key. Humanitarian Sam is just glad the robber didn’t get the cake, because she forgot to get dessert. We can tell these two will fall in love because already they show great concern for each other. More dialogue reveals that Ron has just moved here, and that he’s a tax lawyer. Sam says that she’s mad at the IRS, and is thinking of filing late next year. Oh, that’ll show them. They’ll be so alarmed and afraid that they’ll penalize her for filing late. Hey, why not skip filing altogether and really teach them a lesson?
As Ron goes to the phone to call the police, we get another bad edit. Sam approaches the camera, still wiping a sauce stain from her blouse. Either they held the shot too long, or they were trying to tease us with a cleavage shot but cut it too soon. She very nearly thrust her entire chest right into the lens.
Suddenly, Alicia shows up with another one of the Village People in tow. It’s the Police Officer. His name is Ray Simpson. He’s no relation to Sam, apparently. Did the scriptwriters not realize that they would have two people with the same last name in the script? Why not change Sam’s last name to something more imaginative?
Alicia says she met him at an audition. Apparently, he used to sing with a group of officers called “The Cop-Outs.” Beaming, she asks “Clever, huh?” Nah, knowing the music, “Police Brutality” seems more fitting.
Sam takes Alicia off to show her something “Divine.” Ron asks Simpson “Are you really a policeman?” He replies “You don’t know a black Irishman when you see it?” Bless poor ol’ Brucie, you can tell he doesn’t know how to react to that line. Really, it’s not his fault. He’s just not cut out for this, and the filmmakers should have known it. He looks like somebody from Payroll who wandered into the shot accidentally.
“Uh, I did get robbed by an old lady,” Brucie says. Instantly, Simpson asks “On a moped?” Apparently Grannie is on a regular crime wave in NYC. Simpson begins to write down the details, but in walks Felipe. Felipe does a double take at the sight of Ron (he’s dressed conservatively, so he looks out of place, get it?). Felipe asks if they’re here to sing. Simpson says he is, reclaims his pencil so he can write down the lyrics, and off they go, leaving Ron bristling.
Outside, Lulu and Jack are rejoining the fray, giggling. It looks like, unlike a certain US politician, Jack inhaled. He’s worried about people being able to tell. “Relax, honey,” says Lulu. “Next time I’ll get you some magic mushrooms.” And then he can write a script to the movie about how the Village People were formed.
Alicia introduces Jack to Officer Simpson, who is in his full police uniform. At this point, the director should have yelled “Cut! Steve, it says in the script ‘Upon seeing Simpson, Jack looks dismayed and worried,’ not ‘Upon seeing Simpson, Jack looks lobotomized.'” Guttenberg stands there, slack-jawed. They even show his trip from his perspective. They slow the film down and blur the image slightly, they same “trick” they use in many of the musical numbers.
Wow! What filmmaking technique! Did the director smoke up to best learn how to shoot this scene? If so, Nancy Walker joins such luminaries as Otto Preminger, who directed the freak-out “comedy” Skidoo. Preminger allegedly took LSD in order to better film an acid trip sequence in that movie. Perhaps not coincidentally, both Skidoo and Must Stop the Music end up being mentioned in the same kinds of film books–ones with titles like The Worst Films of All Time.
Meekly Jack goes to meet Simpson. He holds up a reel of quarter-inch tape. “Tape,” says Disco Sheep sheepishly.
Cut back to Sydney. It’s now dark, and she’s in the phone booth still. Yep, go ahead and milk the gag. It still has plenty of possibilities. She pulls loose, then tries to exit the booth. The door is jammed. “How much farther to some actual comedy, Papa Smurf?” “Not far now.” A bum pushes open the door and finally Sydney is loose. And there was much rejoicing. Hurrah.
Back at Sam’s, Bruce is watching the spectacle in the backyard. “What is this, some kind of half-way house?” he asks. “That’s as good a name as any,” says Sam. “C’mon, we’re getting into the music business.” The Village People are “Doop doop dooping,” practicing for a song, and then Felipe does that stupid whistle. Count to ten, breathe easy, no stress…
Sam introduces Ron to Lulu. Sam identifies her as “the best dresser in the business.” Best dresser? Either Lulu’s on holiday or the business is deep trouble. “My undressing ain’t bad either,” Lulu says. Please Ron, just take her word for it.
Now Ron asks a question that might be on your mind if you care at this point. Seeing Felipe, he inquires “Why is he dressed as an Indian?” Sam responds “Maybe it’s his fantasy,” sticking out her tongue. And there you have it folks. Satisfied?
Ron says that being a cowboy is his fantasy, but he doesn’t dress like one. “Too bad,” says Lulu. “We can use another hand on this spread.” No Lulu, one is already enough. If we had two cowboys we’d have to get two Indians, and before you know it things are even more of a mess.
Who should arrive next but Jack’s mom Helen Morell (June Havoc), wearing–to borrow Darren McGavin’s line from A Christmas Story when he sees little Ralphie in the bunny suit–“a pink nightmare.” She’s all enthused about Jack’s music and can’t wait until she sees something produced by Jack on Broadway. Ah, parents and their blind faith. Jack begs Mom not tell everyone he’s a genius. Hilariously, she simply responds, “You’re my son,” as if she’s well aware of that. Next, she starts showing off her outfit to Sam. “How do you like my outfit? Gucci? Pucci? Thelucci?” I was thinking “Uzi” myself.
Tactful Sam says “It’s colourful.” Her distaste is evident, but you know the old saying. People who wear baby blue floral print dresses that look like they’re made out of crepe paper (as Sam does) shouldn’t throw stones.
The gang sits down to eat. HEY WAIT A MINUTE! Earlier Sam said nobody ate until she heard some music! Damn it, I hate when movies do that! I can put up with the dancing like St. Vitus sufferers, the script that reads like the minutes of the monthly meeting of the Guild of Village Idiots, and the direction by deep space satellite, BUT THIS IS TOO MUCH!
Anyway, there’s a 20-second shot of nothing but guests wandering now. It’s stuff like this that padded the running time.
Behind the fence of Sam’s backyard, Sydney has arrived. She tries to sneak in by climbing the fence. Why she doesn’t go through the front door isn’t explained. But hey, it will be a thing called “funny” if she climbs the fence. She accidentally steps on a cat (see IMMORTAL DIALOGUE). Sydney tumbles over the fence, Ron catches her. Lulu says that oft-repeated phrase after the movie came out: “With God as my witness, I swear I had nothing to do with this.”
Sam tells Sydney that this is ridiculous. “You have arrived here like the wicked witch of the west.” Sydney brilliantly retorts “And you have turned into Snow White. And here are the seven dwarves.” She points randomly at this odd crew. “Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy and…” she notices Ron. If you’re guessing she says “Dopey,” guess again. “Gorgeous,” she says. Sydney introduces herself as an agent, and offers him a job. “Something tells me you’d really fit into a pair of jockey shorts.” Funny, I was thinking the entire cast and crew would look tres chic in a straightjacket.
Anyway, they sit down to eat. Ron sticks a napkin in his vest, pursing his lips like an orangutan. Sydney gets a sample of “Lasagna Crunch.” “Is it much further to some actual humor, Papa Smurf?” “Yes it is, now Smurf up!”
Jackie’s Mum starts gushing again. “My son recording a real live backyard album,” she marvels. Real live backyard album? This is a common thing? She compares it to Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, or Minnie Pearl selling fried chicken (?). Felipe starts to speak, but she puts a hand over his mouth. Thanks Mom. Can you be around when he starts singing?
Jack uncomfortably says that these people are doing him a favour. Mom responds “They should get down on their knees,” one of the movie’s more uncomfortable double entendres.
Finally, we get to the song. The Village People get together and sing “Magic Nights.” The song is forgettable, but not too abrasive. Although, considering these guys just met a few minutes ago, this song is suspiciously well put together. Almost as if it was prerecorded, in fact. Oh, occasionally, singer Cop Village Person will glance down at the lyric sheet for “realism,” but that’s all.
Jack is at the front, not sure what he’s doing. As the composer you think he might be directing them, but he seems to be just dancing like there’s a rabid weasel in his shorts. Highlights of this musical number include Lulu nearly raping Ron, and if you look closely, Alicia seems to be having problems with a chair. It seems as if the extras in this scene were just told to dance randomly. Weren’t they supposed to be recording this? People jumping up on the picnic table in Sam’s yard aren’t going to help the sound quality.
This is too much for Ron, who attempts to leave. Sam catches him at the door. Somehow during the dancing, she acquired an entirely different outfit. This one is all white.
“Your friends are a little far out for me,” says Ron, as we hear the music playing in the background. Sam says she accepts people’s peculiarities as long as they don’t hurt people. Well Sam, they inflicted this movie on innocent moviegoers, does that count? Sam says “I don’t judge people,” (or movies, apparently) “I accept them.” Ron asks where she draws the line. “With uptight squares like you,” she answers. Okay, they hate each other, and register zero chemistry on screen. Naturally they’ll sleep together the next time they meet.
Returning to the backyard, the song is still going on. “Sam, am I crazy or does it sound wonderful?” cries Jack. “Yes, both of the above,” she replies. I’m sorry, that’s the wrong answer. The correct response was “A”. “What do we do now?” asks Jack. Apparently, he still doesn’t know. Does he have any idea what being a music composer entails? Fortunately or unfortunately, Sam is there to think for him. “Self-recording publishing rights,” she says. Just like that, huh?
The song finishes with a flourish. We see the remaining cast from a shot looking directly down at the picnic table. We hear the words “Magic Nights,” and they whip out their arms. They’re gathered around the table in what may have been meant to be a circle, an oval, a rectangle, or a football shape. It seems as though the recording of the song gradually faded out, but because they’re supposed to be singing the song, they couldn’t film this. So they hammered on this new ending. It’s so obviously tacked on you can see the staples on the celluloid. And the soundtrack sounds like a record needle jumped.
But, the scene is over, hurrah! Never in my life while I have to look through it again. I feel like I did the day I quit my restaurant job.
The next day, Sam is returning home from some meetings with record types. She tried to get some people interested in Jack’s tape, but they wanted to discuss it over dinner. She says it’s a prime example of the casting couch. A model with a name like Sam’s has to put up with this?
Jack calls the results depressing. Never mind that his friend was hit on by sleezeball showbiz types. What about his career? Sam agrees that it’s “Critical. I ate two snoballs, a dingdong, and a couple of twinkies.”
They go into the apartment, and Jack asks “Who’s the most important record person we both know?” That would be Steve Waits, Sam’s ex, but she’s not going back to him. Jack asks why not, and then delivers a line always quoted in the Bad Movie guides: “Anyone who can swallow two snoballs and a dingdong shouldn’t have any trouble with pride.” It’s a beauty, isn’t it?
“You’re doing him a favor, Sam,” says Jack. That’s why the other people she saw would have checked out the tape. When big celebrities back a project, people start to listen. Anyway, Sam goes to her wardrobe to pick out a dress. She can’t decide between “woman of the world or innocent little girl.” Then she asks “Why haven’t I heard the pitter-patter of little stewardesses’ pumps lately?” Jack says he’s given up his love life until his music gets published. Whew. Now we don’t have to worry about him reproducing.
Knowing how long it could take, Sam begins to protest, but Jack tells her not to even think about it. “Pick out your dress, and go out there and sell your ass off.” Another unfortunate prostitution double entendre. Sam picks a dress and says “Well, this definitely calls for tits and tears.” Fine, as long as you’ve got your pride, Sam.
Cut to the office of Steve Waits, record company president (Paul Sand). He is picking up phones and yelling bits of business babble into each of them. In walks Sam. She enters in slo-mo, and “seductive” music starts playing. Actually, it’s about the least erotic seduction music I’ve ever heard. It sounds like Christmas Carols. I swear I heard Burl Ives singing in the distance “You know Dasher and Dancer, Comet and Cupid…” Sorry, that isn’t a turn-on.
On seeing Sam, Steve momentarily forgets about his phone. He asks Sam for a kiss. She offers her cheek, but just before he can make contact he bellows into the phone “50,000, are you crazy? Who did you think I am, Neil Bogart?” Who?
Sam is put off by “the touch-tone kid” who keeps talking into his phones rather than to her. Soon though, he’s sitting with her on the couch, begging her to come back to him. He starts to kiss and whisper to her, yet at the same time is stroking a nearby phone. She doesn’t seem to be rejecting his advances, surprising for someone who wanted to stay off the casting couch.
When he whispers into the phone hoping to hear Rod Stewart, she gets fed up. Finally, we get to the point of this scene. She hands him a tape of Jack’s music. He complains that everyone is pushing their music on him. Geez, what do they think he is, president of a record company? When Sam tells him Jack made the tape, he asks if Jack is the houseboy who let her plants die. Hmm…so he’s as good around the house as he is with a keyboard. Maybe we should keep him out of dental school for the safety of our teeth.
Steve also complains about the greedy people he has to deal with. Shed a tear for the poor exploited record company, will you? He talks about the IRS taking all his money, and his groups write their own songs and don’t share the royalties with anyone. At this, I nearly choked. The record company doesn’t get a cut of royalties? Obviously, this is a record company from an alternate universe. No wonder everyone’s trying to get signed with him.
Sam asks for a demo session. “That’s easy, you got it,” he says. He then makes plans for a romantic getaway with her, but she says she’s taken a vow of chastity. But she does tease him. “Shooby-dooby-do,” she says. Wow, I’m getting hot. I need an instant cold shower. Where’s Lulu?
Sam exits the office, and who should she bump into but Ron. Ron is apparently here for a meeting with some other suit-type guys. Looking for an excuse to leave, he asks a secretary for directions to the men’s room. She points one way, he points in the direction of Sam and says “That way, thank you.” He then runs off in pursuit. As far as delivering a comic line goes, Bruce Jenner is an excellent Olympic athlete.
Ron loses her at the elevator, jamming his briefcase inside, but he only ends up losing it (slapstick!). He runs downstairs and finally catches up to her outside. Ron apologizes for his behavior the previous day. He wants to be friends. She says skeptically that the only one who ever said that and meant it is Jack. Would this be the same Jack that grabs your ass as a greeting and likes the “wiggle that you got in your jeans”?
Inexplicably, Ron wants to help with the group. She agrees. He tries to hail a cab, but they ignore him. Naturally, no movie would be so corny as to then have Sam hike up her skirt and instantly have a cab stop for them while old-style strip routine music plays. No movie except this one here. “It takes more than a pretty face to get anywhere in this town,” she says. Yes, apparently you have to put out too.
Sam and Ron meet Jack back at the apartment. Ron says he can’t get the song out of his head. We sympathize, being scarred for life by the music too. Sam tells Jack that he’s got a demo session. It seems as though there’s a problem though, they don’t have a group. What? What the hell were they doing last night then? Jack moans that “You just don’t put together a group like a laundry load.” Sam likes that as group name (Laundry Load). Hey, let’s just keep her out of future decisions on the creative front.
Why is Jack so worried I wonder? Sam found three singers as a result of one trip for ice cream. If she goes for a jog, she’ll probably come back with an entire symphony orchestra. Sam also prides herself on using her brains and not her body. Uh, where did brains come into this? It was painfully clear that Steve was interested in her body. I might also point out she also flashed some leg just to hail a cab. Her integrity is highly suspect.
Now for another slapstick moment. She removes a pan of what looks like burnt lasagna from the oven, then dumps it on Ron’s legs. We get the usual squealing, but she seems more worried about the floor than about Ron. Ah, blossoming romance… Incidentally, she should have been burnt too, and judging by the angle of the spill, the stains on Ron’s pants are too high up. “Get his pants off,” she orders, and she and Jack get on their knees and begin stripping Ron.
They soon have him stripped to his briefs. Now, is this scene supposed to be funny? Vaguely erotic? What’s going on? When I first watched this movie with my friend Leandro Asnaghi-Nicastro, we would sit through scenes like this that had no apparent function. We would look at each other and say “Did you catch any of that?” When we both established that we had absorbed no information or impression, one of us would ask “Do you want to rewind it?” Then we’d say simultaneously “Nah!”
While they strip Ron, they make plans to place ads in Billboard to advertise for group members. She says she can’t afford to rent an office and wonders where they can hold the auditions. So her backyard is fine for recording, but auditions are out? And why can’t “The Garbo of Models” afford an office? How long is she going to last on these savings–the end of the week?
Fortunately, Ron offers the use of his office. Jack says “Sam’s very delicate. Don’t let her see your knees.” He wraps some kind of cover (looks like a table cloth) around them, and leaves to do…whatever, leaving Sam and Ron alone. A weird exchange begins.
“Wear a dickie?” she asks.
“Smart Alec,” he responds.
“You go write the ad!” she says. Uh…yeah.
He sits in what looks like a dentist chair in the living room. He’s only got one sock, the tablecloth, his briefs, and his vest and shirt on. Mere words can’t capture the dorkiness of this scene.
Sam comes in, and turns off the lights. She offers him some wine. Now, the scriptwriters begin throwing lines in at random. She observes that he looks comfortable. He says he’s starting to get used to the city. She says she’s been here since she was 18, and wouldn’t work anywhere else. He says he never met a woman with a male roommate. “This is the ’80s, darling,” she says. “You’ll see a lot of things you’ll never see before.” If this movie is any indication of this, then this is a prophecy of doom.
Sam spills wine on Ronnie. Leaning over to try to clean it off, her dress gets caught on the chair. She tells him to unzip it so she can slide out of it. Anyone spot where this is going? Anyone? Sam spots a wedding ring on his finger and momentarily gets upset. He says his divorce is coming through. Wonder why the Granny Robber didn’t get this ring? Ron also says he’s moved to New York to have some fun. She slides out of her dress and asks if he’s having fun now. Hey, ask me that question. Then we get her idea of foreplay, as she does the “This Little Piggy” thing with his toes. By and by he picks her up, and asks which way to go. She says “To the right, and don’t stop ’til sun-up.” He goes to the left. Not a bright one, our Ronnie. Or did she mean her right?
Soon they’re in her bedroom which, as Ronnie says, is very orange. She says it’s peach. Whatever it is, it looks like the inside of a clay pot. They fall onto the bed…accidentally. “You’re really dangerous on your feet,” she observes. “We won’t have to worry about that for awhile,” he says, as suavely as Pee Wee Herman. He tries to turn the lamp off, but only succeeds in knocking it over. This at least has the desired effect, and plunges the room into darkness. “This is the 80s, darling,” he says. “You’re going to do a lot of things you’ve never done before.” And after this movie, she will never do them again, thank God.
We’re spared any of the gory details. It’s the Hitchcock thing. All you have to do is show a hint of what’s going on to scare them. Anyway, next day we spot Alicia dragging a new member of the Village People into the fold. This is the soldier (Alex Briley), billed in the credits as the “GI”. We also notice the biker driving up to the law office.
The GI notes that this is a conservative law firm, and is worried about looking out of place. Now, he’s wearing a work uniform, but just about all army uniforms look formal, at least conveying an air of discipline and professionalism that wouldn’t clash in a law firm, so it’s strange remark. Naturally, when they get into the office, it’s a zoo with jugglers, fire-eaters, and just plain nutcases. Comedy!
Inside, Jack is taking auditions. He already knows the GI, so he’s accepted immediately. We notice Sam is dressed like a stewardess. Hey, everyone’s on a uniform kick. Maybe we’ll see a McDonald’s Cashier Village Person.
One of the people who auditions is a body builder, who works out while singing “Macho Man,” a Village People song otherwise not featured in the movie. They put up with him and give him the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” routine. Do you see the comedy here? He’s a bad singer, singing a Village People song. But we all know that they are no room for pretenders in this group, right? What a fool for trying to pass himself off a singer. We’ve all seen through your game, you would-be infiltrator!
And now let’s meet useless character #17, Ron’s mom, dressed like Sam’s room is painted. Everyone seems stunned that Ron has a mother. Geez, didn’t anyone tell these people how babies are made? Ron isn’t a robot someone assembled. I guess they were all fooled by his performance. They’re also stunned at how she looks. So was I, but for entirely different reasons. “She looks better than I do,” says Sam, proving herself to be equally adept at her taste in clothing as she is in music.
Mom, as well as Ron’s Boss, don’t look too thrilled at this crowd. “Didn’t Greenwich Village People go out with the ’60s?” she asks. “That’s it!” cries Sam. And now we know how they got their name. Okay, roll the credits! Please! Nope, there’s still more to go. In walks the Biker Village Person (Glen Hughes). He’s not here to audition, but to file an extension on his taxes. He’s a toll booth collector. He’s dressed in leather and chains. When someone asks “Do all toll booth collectors dress like that?” he says “Just the hot ones.” Mister Hughes is listed in the credits as (With God as my witness) “Leatherman.”
Jack tells him he’s got the wrong room, they’re holding auditions for a singing group. Now, no movie would be so corny as to have one person say they’re holding auditions for a singing group, and then have another character say: “A singing group? Well, you ain’t heard nothing yet.” Hey, screw you pal! We’ve heard plenty. Don’t belittle our pain! And now for the most shocking part of the movie. Leatherman (sounds like a Superhero who’s into S&M) breaks into song, getting atop a convenient piano. He sings “Danny Boy,” an old ’40s tune (if I’m not mistaken. You can hear Harry Connick, Jr. sing it in Memphis Belle).
The shocking part–and I mean this without facetiousness–is that Leatherman can sing. He has a nice voice, and he holds the tune well. He looks ridiculous in that get up and can’t act, but darn it all, there’s a real singer in this movie! Considering all that’s come before, this brief moment is a breath of fresh air. They readily accept him into the group, which is surprising. His good voice is going to clash horribly with the rest of the gang.
Ron’s Boss though, ain’t impressed. He doesn’t like this whole singing thing, and tells Ron as much. Well, Ron’s had enough. “This country is over-taxed, and so am I!” Yep, nothing like a little tax pun to liven things up. See, Ron’s not gonna take it anymore. Bruce, good athlete that he is, still looks totally out of place on camera and convinces us of nothing. Watching him mouth off is like watching a smurf threaten to bitchslap Mike Tyson. It just doesn’t carry any weight. Anyway, Ron quits his job to do I don’t know what for the group. “I’m the lawyer for the hottest new group in show business. The Village People.”
Suddenly, enter another flake. “I’m James and flames are my game,” he says. Anyway, his fire-juggling act sets off the sprinklers. “I always knew this job would be a wash-out,” says Ron. Everyone laughs, then all the electrical equipment on the floor, mixed with the water, sends a massive surge of electricity through the room, killing everyone. No wait, I imagined that part.
Next scene, the gang is on the street. The conversation that follows is extremely hard to follow. As near as I can tell, a friend of Ron’s is going to let them stay at a local YMCA while they need a place to work from. Gee, what a generous friend. “It takes more than a pretty face to get around in this town,” says Ron. Yeah, well, pardon me Ron if I’m not so impressed that you needed to pull to strings just so you could stay at the YMCA. Anyway, if the mention of the YMCA has you thinking about the song, guess what?
Yep, they begin to sing “YMCA,” the Village People’s signature tune. Now, in all movies, there are certain conventions that audiences are willing to grant a picture. We’re willing to watch an action movie and see the hero shoot twenty guys without taking a scratch because, hey, he’s the hero. Sure it’s unrealistic, but so what? We’re here to have a good time and we’ll let that slide in order to have it. If filmmakers choose to alter or ignore these conventions, they better know what they’re doing.
In the case of musicals, we accept that music numbers can break out anywhere, at any time. We don’t see a band playing music, but we accept that music is there. When Julie Andrews ran through the hills singing the “Sound of Music,” nobody guffawed because we couldn’t see the band. It was a premise we granted the movie, and the movie worked with it skillfully.
In For the Love of God Stop the Music, all the musical numbers we’ve seen have chosen not to use that convention. Music has started in this movie because people have chosen to actually perform a song, play a tape, whatever. They only exception is “I Love You to Death,” but since that was a fantasy sequence set in someone’s head, it doesn’t count.
Another good example of what I’m talking about is Purple Rain (okay, maybe just an example). All the songs in that movie are clearly and deliberately played by bands. Having done this, they can’t just walk into a place, and start singing. So the movie doesn’t. Please I’ll Do Anything Stop the Music tries to have it both ways now by suddenly having them enter the YMCA, and suddenly everyone is choreographed, including total strangers, with the song. Sorry, you can’t do that anymore. You’ve chosen to ignore the convention, you can’t have it back now. A similar problem occurs in A Change of Habit when “Sunshine Place” starts up.
It’s also not really a great place to do this. It’s a gym, for crying out loud. Dirty, smelly, spartan. There are only a few more inappropriate places for a musical number. Slaughterhouse comes to mind, Gas Chamber is another. Anyway, we see the gang march happily through the Y. They go through the change rooms, even Sam does. Men cover up as she approaches. She’s wearing a “Macho Woman” T-shirt. Clever huh?
We also get lots of homoerotic images such as men wrestling, showering, and playing sports. Oh yeah, and for those of you who keep track of these things, Perrine’s breasts are briefly visible during the hot tub scene in this number. If you’re willing to sit through this movie just to get a glimpse, you must be obsessed with Valerie Perrine. Why not watch Showgirls instead? I gather there’s some nudity in that movie.
We also get some cool camera tricks, the split screen, blurring kind occasionally used by Sesame Street in the ’70s. We also get to see swimmers fall into a pool in sync, and Bruce Jenner playing basketball. This scene must have been a relief for Jenner. He can run and jump and play basketball.
So we see lots of sweaty men lifting weights, displaying armpit hair–the kind of stuff you see in good ol’ fashioned romantic musicals. There was a YMCA scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, wasn’t there? The song concludes with a shot of young men collapsing into what may be a Y, but looks more like a V.
Editorial Note from Ken: I’m assuming that Jason reviewed this from one of the newer video editions. You can tell the original video release because it retains the quick ‘shower’ shot originally featured in the film. This showcased a bunch of bared johnsons, presumably for the Group’s, uh, hardcore fanbase. Mysteriously (or not), this shot has, er, disappeared from the video version that I bought.
By and by, we come to the demo session we were told about, oh, a century ago. Lulu is in the recording booth with the Village People, some of whom are in doubt. Leatherman says “I don’t know, I’m not a dancer.” Lulu says “Come on, everyone’s a dancer.” It’s assumptions like that that got this movie into trouble in the first place. Lulu says that they should do what they normally do, but do it “Sexy.” She then does some hip twists they I guess are supposed to be suggestive, but look more like bad aerobics.
Jack, Ron and Sam are in the control booth, waiting for Steve to arrive. This gives us an opportunity for some more of Ron’s tax humor, which I will not subject you to (you’re welcome). Steve arrives, and after some ringing phone silliness, Jack tells him that this is the music everyone will be dancing to next month (more like last year) or whenever they can get the record out. “This is the sound of the ’80s,” he enthuses. “Everybody’s looking for it, and we’ve got it.” Seeing the group, Ron says he hates Halloween. He asks why they’re dressed like that. When told “They’re the Village People,” he rolls his eyes. Always the sign of a bad movie when an antagonist’s reaction seems more reasonable than the heroes’ view.
The next song, “Liberation,” begins. Some problems occur. There’s feedback in the studio, which Lulu tries to fix by adjusting the microphone stand. Feedback is often the result of microphones placed improperly. The problem is that the mike is in the singer’s hand, so Lulu could toss that stand out the window, it wouldn’t make any difference. Magically, moving the stand does fix the problem.
The choreography is bad in this scene…apparently deliberately, as the Village People can barely keep out of each other’s way. As they dance, Jack looks frustrated, and the Village People begin giving each other painful looks. Were they anticipating the reviews? Nope, it seems we have reached the crisis moment of the film. Defined in your drama textbook as the moment when the character’s goals seems furthest from their grasp. You see, the song isn’t turning out the way they’d like. Once again, the movie is so inept that what would normally be a standard device in any movie is completely unrecognizable. There are four major problems with our crisis:
1) Pretty wimpy crisis. A song recording isn’t going well. Oh no! Look, in any kind of prerecorded media, there are going to be botched takes. In fact, even if your very first run-through is perfect, you do another take anyway, just for safety’s sake. Only master auteurs such as Ed Wood and William “One Shot” Beaudine, working with no time and no budget, would do just one recording of their scenes.
2) This particular song is actually marginally better than the other songs that came before it. It still sucks, but I find it didn’t give me the urge to gouge out my eardrums like the others did. The choreography blew before this scene, so we can’t really tell the “bad” choreography from the “good.”
3) A recording session is not the same as a performance, or an audition. The purpose of getting people into a studio is to record sound, that’s it. Often, there isn’t even a band–the instrumentals are prerecorded. Therefore, there’s no need for the costumes or the choreography, they wouldn’t be an issue. It doesn’t matter if you record in your underwear, as long as it sounds good on tape.
4) This movie has no plot to speak of, so there’s no point to introducing a crisis now.
We also get some brilliant camera work, including jamming the camera in the face of the singers from below while bright lights shine overhead. Don’t pause the movie at this point, otherwise your screen will get phosphor burn.
Outside the studio, Steve is telling Sam that his intuition is telling him not get involved (Say, the Force is strong with this one). He even calculates what the band is worth, and shows the figure to Sam. “That wouldn’t feed my cat,” says Sam. “You don’t have a cat,” says Steve, serving up the punchline of a joke that apparently hasn’t been told yet. They argue some more, and Steve goes to leave, cursing. In walks Alicia, dressed as a nun (?). Apparently, she’s been to yet another audition or something. Thinking she’s a real nun, Steve apologizes in an “amusing” manner. Can just anyone walk into this studio, by the way?
Next scene, Ron and Jack are drinking on a restaurant patio. They’re laughing it up, apparently they’ve had a few. Sam and Alicia enter, wanting to know what they’re so happy about. Jack says that Benny Murray is selling the club, going into the party business. “Tupperware,” jokes Alicia. Wow, references like that date the film better than carbon-dating. Jack’s scheme is to have him throw theme parties. The band sings and dances, they sign other acts, charge $20 a head, plus what they make at the bar. Sam invites the press and “instant stardom.” Pretty iffy scheme to put it mildly. I’ve heard Savings & Loans and Condo-sharing pitches that sound more convincing.
Sam is worried about the cost. Very good Sam. Jack does some math, and figures they’ll make plenty of money with 2000 people coming. I guess the bar staff, other bands and whatever hall they rent will do this for free, adding to Jack’s imaginary profits. Meanwhile, Sam has an idea for raising the money to throw this shindig. She gives Sydney a call. ‘Hang on to your 8X10s,” she advises. She’s decided to make the milk commercial.
Cut to the set of the commercial. Sam is dressed up all housewifeish, standing in front of a fridge. “Children,” she calls. Instantly, a group of children dressed up like the Village People storm the set. Oh man, can’t this be construed as child abuse? “If you want to grow up big and strong, you’ve got to drink your milk,” she says. She pours some milk, and the camera zooms in on the spout as a prelude to dissolving to a stage. The grown-up Village People are dressed in all-white versions of their costumes and singing “Milkshake.” This commercial is absolutely hilarious. Nobody would make a commercial like this.
First, it’s far too long (over three minutes). Second, the only glimpse of the product we get is a giant glass, where Sam sits, and the Village People mock drink through giant straws. Women in white costumes, some of whom look to be the fantasy women from “I Love You to Death” strike seductive poses. And although we’ve just had our big crisis of the Village People failing to perform well, suddenly they can dance again (well, not really, but you know what I mean).
Watch this scene for another bad edit where they lift Valerie Perrine, but add a second shot in mid-lift, making me wonder if they dropped her the first time.
Pull out to see the gang watching it on TV. Everyone is enthused. Jack is wearing a plaid jacket like what James Garner used to wear in The Rockford Files. Lulu says that this is the most glamorous and sexy commercial she has ever seen. Apparently the only other commercial she’s ever seen is that famous luggage commercial where a gorilla in a zoo bashes around a suitcase.
Sadly, Sydney reveals that the client thought the commercial was too controversial (not to mention 2:30 longer than TV commercials are supposed to be). Hardly surprising, but how is that their problem? They do the commercial, they pocket the money, they go home. They didn’t do anything silly like agree to getting paid only if the commercial was accepted, did they? I hope they didn’t waive their acting fees pending the commercial success of this movie.
But again, problems are solved immediately after being established. If this were a murder mystery, seconds after the victim had died there would be a trial of bloody footprints for the Inspector to follow right to the closet door where the killer was hiding. Ron’s Mom is on hand, and she apparently puts together charity fundraisers. She suggests having them appear at one. Jack, with puppy dog eyes, asks if she would consider them “Needy.” Absolutely. Supporting this crew is definitely charity work.
Sam decides to try to get Steve to attend. Ron assumes the worst…no, not that a sequel will be made, but that Sam is going back to Steve. They have a little spat before deciding that this should be a strictly business relationship. Since the movie is nearly over (thank God) introducing a split in a relationship that wasn’t really believable to begin with only gives us one more thing not to care about.
Steve has jumped to the same conclusion, and waits for Sam in his private jet. Who should arrive though, but Jack and his Mom. Some stock footage shows a plane taking off. This may have been meant to be Steve’s plane, but the cabin remains awfully still. They don’t evil tilt the camera. Using a combination of food and sheer boredom, they beat Steve into submission, and get a contract.
There. He’s arrived. He’s got his music contract. However, the movie doesn’t seem to realize this. It’s carrying on as if tonight will make or break the Village People. But they’ve already been signed to a deal, something that neither party can get out of. But the movie boldly lurches forward. Apparently, Jack, Mom and Steve are going to visit some stock footage of the Golden Gate Bridge.
All right, big concert night. On stage is the Richie Family, a trio of women who actually aren’t a family, according to the credits. How disillusioning. I don’t much about this band, but they do okay. They sing a song “Give Me a Break,” dressed like strippers. Much of their number is shot from below the stage. Now, this particular angle…oooh, how do I put this delicately? Let’s just say the shot is looking up at the girls. And we get to see that one has a good bikini line. Who was the cinematographer anyway? Some guy they found wearing a dirty raincoat hanging outside the women’s washrooms of a New York bus station? Someone is waving a whip in the audience, by the way. Make of that what you will.
Cut to the dressing rooms, where Lulu is making calls trying to find Sam. Ron is worried she might have gone off somewhere with Steve. She also has the costumes. Funny, the Village People wore them everywhere they went. Suddenly they don’t have them and now they’re lost. Way to artificially create tension. But they do so only for a sec, because suddenly here are the costumes. I hope they have a spare for Lulu, because she’s wearing a hideous dress with bows all over it.
It’s almost time for the Village People to go on stage. They’re worried because they’ve never performed in front of a large crowed. “Leatherman, don’t get nervous,” says Leatherman, banging his head against the wall. Now they agonize that Jack isn’t here. Tension! Suddenly, Jack walks in. Gee, that tension lasted a whole five seconds. Most musicals aren’t about end of the world consequences, but can’t they have one lasting problem? Jack reveals that they have a contract. Hurray! They don’t have to sing now. No, really. That’s okay. You can sit down, guys. No!!!
Another bad edit and we see the respected journalist Claudia Walthers arrive. This is that cameo appearance by Leigh Taylor-Young. She does a forgettable turn, and I have no idea why they hyped her appearance. Her previous movie credits include The Adventurers and Soylent Green. She’s not exactly a huge star. Anyway, Steve is on hand, and he informs her “I have no comment at this time.” She says she’s here to interview the Village People.
Steve says he’s just signed them to a contract. Claudia doesn’t seem so impressed, and is about to walk away when one of her crew suggests they get some information from him. Good thing he was here to point this out to this clueless, but respected journalist. She asks him to what extent he’s involved. That flusters Steve. So in all his time as a record exec, he never learned how to schmooze the press? Steve stutters that he’s involved on a very “personal level” with the group. Oh, these shallow showbiz types, huh? Then he starts hitting on Claudia. Astonishingly it works, and they go off together.
Sam arrives, and so does Ron’s boss, who rehires him and wiggles his way into the band’s management. Sam and Ron sort of make up, but not really. He just proposes marriage. “I don’t know what to say,” she says. “Say yes, kiss me,” cries Ron. They kiss, we barf. So, have we tied up all the lose ends yet? No, suddenly a guy we’ve never seen before comes in and announces that he has a cure for cancer. Then another guy comes in, having solved the mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper. Yet another guy says he’s found a way to get blueberry stains out of whites. Okay, I’m making it up now. But the part about the milk commercial is true, I swear.
Back in the dressing room, Sydney is mouthing off. Lulu, who has let her boss her around thus far, says “Sydney, shut your mouth.” She is quitting to become the number one roadie for the Village People. Oh yeah, there’s a career with a long-term future. “Lulu,” says Sydney, about get off the best sting in the movie, “whoever gets you, deserves you.” Right on.
Jack has a bit of performance anxiety, still worried that none of this will work. Jack, open your eyes–none of this has worked since the start. Anyway, he and the Village People hold hands for a show of solidarity. “We’re a group,” he says solemnly. “Geronimo,” someone cries, and they hit the stage. Before we do, we hear that damn Indian call one last time.
Outside, the crowd is already going nuts for a band they haven’t heard yet. See, they don’t have to do anything. This movie ended, ten, fifteen minutes ago. But they’re going to inflict one final song on us. This one is about six minutes long (oh the horror, the horror). It’s the title track I’ll Give You $1000 If You’ll Stop the Music–I mean, Can’t Stop the Music. The Village People arrive in not just campy costumes, but campy vehicles too. Construction Worker drives up in tractor. GI is in a jeep. Leatherman and Cop are on their bikes. The whole audience gets carbon monoxide poisoning. All right, they don’t, but it would be a more humane fate.
After about four minutes of basically repeating “You can’t stop the music,” the entire cast gets on stage and dances randomly. Roll the credits as they sing the title over, and over, and over, and over…the crowd doesn’t seem to mind, they must be paid extras. That 20 million-dollar budget had to go somewhere (but it doesn’t look like they spent a nickel over ten grand). The Village People dance as repetitively as their song.
Glitter and a shower of sparks falls on the crowd, igniting the gas fumes from the vehicles…ah, no I made that last part up too. The credits show earlier scenes from the movie, covered in glitter. Yep, even the end credits suck. For example, the part where it shows the crew responsible for visuals is unreadable because of the colour scheme. We get to see the names of the songwriters, and notice one of them is named “Phil Hurtt.” Coincidence? I think not.
So that was the story of how the Village People got together, and started their brave new career. Ironically, the movie pretty much killed it. The Village People had a few novelty hits, all of them coming out before this movie. Despite trying to redo their image after the New Wave bands that were becoming popular (so much for their music of the ’80s), they vanished, only to reappear many years later to sing “In the Navy” in the lame submarine spoof Down Periscope starring Kelsey Grammar. As bad as that was, it was an improvement over Have Mercy Stop the Music. Well, it had to be, didn’t it?
This movie gets my vote for worst musical of the past 20 years. That is no small accomplishment. Other strong contenders for this suspect honor include Grease 2, Xanadu, Thank God It’s Friday…the list goes on. It may well be the worst musical of all time, but I don’t have the courage to sit through Paint Your Wagon, Lost Horizon and At Long Last Love to find out.
Perhaps now is a good time to point out that one of the producers of this movie is named Jacques Morali (Henri Belolo and Allan Carr being the others). Hmm…Jack Morell, Jacques Morali? Is this somebody’s insane idea of a biography? I have no idea to what degree this film is supposed to represent real events, nor do I wish to. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time someone shot celluloid in tribute to their ego, but Steve Guttenberg didn’t exactly do a bang-up job of glamorizing him. He doesn’t send the message “I was a studly genius composer,” but “I was a geeky chipmunk on helium and speed.”
The Village People were a singing group consisting of homosexual men. I heard a rumor not too long ago that one of them was kicked out of the group when it was discovered that he was not gay, but I’ll consider that hearsay. The movie does not deal with the issue of their sexuality. In fact, they seem to be trying to hide it. Example: Felipe returning Lulu’s lusty glances. They show the Village People dancing with women at several points in the movie. That doesn’t mean gay men can’t dance with women of course, but I also noticed that a lot of the time you see women and men of the same race dancing together, rarely mixed. Sam may not judge people, but I get the feeling that the whole sexuality issue didn’t sit well with some of the decision-makers.
This movie didn’t do much for the advancement of understanding homosexuals. With their extreme macho costumes, they seem to make a point of wallowing in stereotypes. They may be doing this just to thumb noses at people’s perception of gays, but the script throws in some more stereotypes. Felipe, Leatherman and Construction Worker like showtunes. You can’t say that they’re just “acting” because they’re playing themselves (actually, you can’t say they’re acting for a whole bunch of reasons).
And finally, there’s an undeniable subtext in the movie. We get shower scenes during the “YMCA” number, wrestling routines, people talking about or actually getting down on their knees, Bruce Jenner getting stripped…they seem to try to keep homosexuality out of the picture, but they did as good a job at that as they did at everything else. I’ve read that they did try to promote this as a family picture (and did have a promo tie in with the dairy industry!), apparently thinking that the nudity and drug use was okay for the kiddies.
If they had gone for the disco club types for an audience (what was left of them), it’s possible that that community would have been more open minded about homosexuality, and they would not have had to make such half-assed overtures to cover it up. By mixing G and PG moments in with the subtext and other adult themes, they totally mixed things up, it just added to the confusion and the awfulness.
Is there some bone I can throw this movie? Did it do anything right? Yes. It ended, albeit two hours too late.
Jack composes a song:
Jack: “Bup bup bup, bup bup bup, bupbupbupbup…bup.”
Lulu sums up her sexual and labor standards:
Lulu: “Housework is like bad sex. Every time I do it I swear I will never do it again. Until the next time company comes.”
Jack sings along to his disco latest hit, possibly “Mary Had a Little Lamb”:
“Ba ba ba ba ba ba BA BA”
Sydney encounters minor difficulties as a cat burglar:
Sydney: “Move it cat. You rotten pussy! Help! I’m being attacked!”
I Love New York:
From the ‘song,’ “Sound of the City”: “New York–city of gusto.”