It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a blog post for my beloved feature, 80’s Library. I was inspired by an 80’s film I happened to see on TV recently: Mannequin. It’s a silly film about a mannequin who comes to life, but it’s so darn entertaining that I can’t help but enjoy it every time I see it. It stars popular 80’s male lead, Andrew McCarthy, alongside a young Kim Cattrall. James Spader plays an unlikeable weasel-y character and G.W. Bailey plays the same role he played in the Police Academy films only this time he’s a department store security guard. Even 80’s sitcom star Estelle Getty, of Golden Girls fame, pops up in the film.
There’s not much originality to be found in this film. Screenwriters, Edward Rugoff and Michael Gottlieb – the latter directed the film – basically attempt to create a tale of love found in the unlikeliest of places and under unusual circumstances. The hook: a young man, Jonathan Switcher (McCarthy), manufactures a department-store mannequin named Emmy (Cattrall), who comes to life one night. He’s the only one who can see her “alive.” Emmy is a reincarnated Egyptian princess who asked the Gods to make her disappear so that she could avoid marriage. Her wish granted; Emmy winds up in Philadelphia in 1987. Together she and Jonathan create storefront window displays the likes of which no one has ever seen before. They’re bright, bold and daring, and they become a city-wide sensation. During the course of creating the window displays and frolicking around the large department store at night, they fall in love.
The movie is essentially a sequence of scenes that resemble music videos. A song plays over a montage of Jonathon and Emmy trying on clothes, dancing around the department store, and using various floor displays – such as a camp site – to create a pretend get-a-way. More than once, Jonathon is caught kissing and rolling around with Emmy – in mannequin form – because she freezes up when other people see her. Other plot points include Jonathan’s jealous girlfriend, Roxie, who is appalled and angered by Jonathan’s affection for the mannequin, and a department store competitor who tries to woo Jonathan away from the store he works at.
These two plots converge to create the big climax when Emmy is stolen and taken to the competing store where Roxie also works. There, she loads Emmy into a trash incinerator to get rid of her. In typical love story happy endings, Jonathan swoops in and saves Emmy just as she’s about to be incinerated. Emmy is “alive” as Jonathan saves her and this time she stays alive in front of the other characters. They get married in the department store window and live happily ever after. I know, it all sounds very cheesy and very cliché, and it is, but it’s also good for a few laughs and some entertainment, which is sometimes all one needs to enjoy a film.