Jeff Doyen’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well, I was gonna get around to this one eventually, didn’t know it was gonna be this way.
With the passing of the late, great Olivia Newton-John, I wanted to watch one of her movies out of respect. It was a coin toss between this and Grease, and while ‘the ‘78 classic was tempting, it’s 2 hour run time scared me (I watch these movies so late, 11 at night, and I didn’t want to watch and write a review till 2 am). So I rented Xanadu, and… I dozed off. Forgive me, I was tired and I went through two double-shifts at work (and a third one earlier today). So I finally watched it in it’s entirety. And, I… I don’t know what to make of this (this meme in a nutshell).
There’s a ton of stuff that I really, really like, meanwhile there’s a ton of other elements that I’m not a fan off. First off, I really adore the music. I was mainly sold on the fact that one of my favorite music groups, Electric Light Orchestra, helped write some of the songs (my concert cherry was popped by them in 2019, fun fact). Even the songs not composed by ELO slap. It’s a great mesh of classic, Golden Age Hollywood and early 80s punk. The choreography as well was full of personality and flare. The performances, mainly from Newton-John and Kelly, were sharp (God, Olivia had such a beautiful voice). The Xanadu club itself looks very cool. I love how this movie looks. The cinematography is very nice and it has so many visually striking moments, regardless if it looks outdated and cheep by today’s standards; it’s just a pretty looking, colorful movie.
But what really holds this back is the jumbled script. The story is loose and all over the place, it can get a lil dull at times, and the characters were a little uninteresting, with an exception to maybe Gene Kelly’s Danny McGuire (which, according to my research, he already played this character in Columbia Pictures’ Cover Girl in 1944). The film reminds me of a music video in the way that it’s structured. But compare it to something like Pink Floyd — The Wall, that at least has a story to tell; it may be a downer one, but it’s still a story. That and sometimes that acting can be a little hokey.
For some reason, when I first saw the poster, I thought it was this weird steampunk-ish sci-fi musical in the vein of ‘80s Flash Gordon. Boy, was I wrong.
Now I really wanna see a sci-fi flick driven by ELO music.
Overall, Xanadu is all over the place for me. It’s such a surreal musical fairy tale that I kinda, sorta liked it. Not everything works, but when it shines, it shines like a bright, beautiful star. Fitting that I rented this on the 8th of August; happy 42nd anniversary Xanadu! The entertainment scene isn’t gonna look the same without this muse. Rest easy, Olivia. Hope you’ve found your Xanadu and you’re dancing with Gene Kelly once again.