“Reality Is Very Disappointing” (#102)

Kids don’t always have the greatest taste in entertainment. Some of what we gravitate toward as children ends up aging gracefully and becoming a classic. Take Back To The Future or Beauty And The Beast or E.T., for example.

But for every E.T., there are a dozen not-so-classic titles we watched and rewatched with equal enthusiasm in our youths. The junk that time forgot. Mannequin is the kind of silly fantasy rom-com that most adults who saw it at the time probably laughed off and never thought of again, but when you’re a kid, pop culture — any pop culture — imprints upon you, whether it’s deserving or not. That’s how a movie like Mannequin can end up looming large in our childhood memories, occupying the same space in our minds as some of the family films ever made. (And how it can trick podcasters into believing it might be worthy of a whole two hour discussion.)

I didn’t exactly ask for the two Mannequin movies to take up so much precious retail space in my head, but in rewatching these films for the podcast, I realized that a lot of these scenes were still stored somewhere back there. Kim Cattrall hang gliding through a department store? Burnt into my brain. Kristy Swanson freezing into fiberglass every time she puts on a gaudy medieval necklace? Ditto.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes.

The poster for Mannequin 2: On The Move feels especially overfamiliar. I must have looked at this VHS box so many times at the video store. (I want to say I’ve seen it in poster form, too, but was this title really alluring enough that the video store would actually feature it so prominently? I doubt it.) As children, a VHS cover was often all we had to go on when making our selection for an evening’s entertainment. We didn’t read reviews and weren’t likely to see trailers for this kind of movie. What we had was this singular image of an unlikely trio in various stages of surprise and delight riding in a pink convertible — a pretty Barbie-esque blonde in a doll pose staring at us with concern that is bordering on dread… a handsome young man in a suit sporting a “Can you believe this shit is happening to a schmo like me?” smirk… a flamboyant gay with a multicolored scarf blowing carefree in the wind who is clearly having the time of his life.

I looked at that image and thought, Yep, that’s what I’m watching tonight. Several times!

If you’d asked me before we recorded, I’d have predicted that Mannequin was a decent romantic fantasy, and Mannequin 2: On The Move was the film that turned a charming premise into silly junk. As it turns out, however, the first Mannequin was silly junk right from the start. Even for a mannequin who magically comes to life thanks to some unseen Egyptian gods, I guess, Kim Cattrall’s character makes no sense. She has no personality whatsoever, even though we’re supposed to believe she’s an ancient Egyptian princess who has witnessed thousands of years of human history. And with all that knowledge and experience, she wants to… design department store windows in Philadelphia? Sure. Whatever.

These films would be a total waste of time if not for Meshach Taylor’s flamboyant and funny Hollywood, who could have driven these stories all by himself. The films are surprisingly progressive in how respectfully they treat Hollywood as a character. He’s one of few people here who feel like a three dimensional human being. (I’d argue the male leads of both films are pretty decent, too, and… that’s about it.) These films are almost worth a watch just for him — but prepare to cringe. A lot.


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