Xanadu ★★★★

"Xanadu" is nuts. An original musical that blends Greek myth with Gene Kelly and roller skating, Robert Greenwald's film is a slice of early 1980s cheese too committed to whatever it is trying to do to be written-off as the schlock for which it could be mistaken. It is a strange, silly collision of camp and earnestness whose exuberant charm and melodic hooks allow the right audience to completely overlook the goofiness coursing through this oddball cinematic concoction.

The story has something to do with a muse, played by Olivia Newton-John, who winds up meeting Michael Beck's artist and redirects his path. This new path finds the artist enamored with the muse and joining creative forces with Gene Kelly's musician in order to build some kind of roller rink/performance space where mid-century music will meet that of the '80s. It is a rather sweet tale about following dreams regardless of how crazed they may be.

As a production, the film finds a combination of large and small-scale musical numbers unfolding against a mid-scale dramatic and romantic scenes. The energy is always high, and Greenwald punctuates the film with day-glo edits and animated sequences.

Musically, the film does what the narrative advertises and offers a mash-up of era-centric styles. It is a bizarrely ideal mix of big band, disco, and prog-rock. It probably should not work, but it does. Jeff Lynne and ELO deserve the credit for that with some sublime melodies, and Newton-John can be shockingly appealing.

Again, "Xanadu" is nuts. However, it is a brilliant kind of nuts that, years after its release, makes an audience ask "What is this?" before stating "I think it's all kind of great." Narrative, production, performance, and song blend together for a cinematic sight that must be seen, and heard, to be believed.

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