Xanadu
“The Russian Chernobyl Dance Class gets their groove on.”

When I was a pre-teen, one of my regular weekend hangouts was the local skating rink.  Donning a pair of smelly, rented roller skates, I’d awkwardly traverse the infinite circle of wood floor paneling, while songs from the likes of Pat Benatar and the Thompson Twins blared in my ears.  “Hit me with your best shot” seemed appropriate as I’d collide with concrete support beams or other skaters.  I was pretty good at gaining speed on the straightaways, but would easily lose control on the turns, scraping the outside wall like Cole Trickle in “Days of Thunder.”  But what else are ya gonna do when they start playing REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Rollin’”?  That’s right–you gotta keep on rollin’!

I’d take occasional breaks from the circle death-race in the snack bar areas, but it would take quite a bit of skill to transition from the wood flooring to the green shag carpet without it resulting in a trip to the ER.  It’s a skill you don’t often hear talked about in roller derbies. After a brief snack of caffeine and sugar it was back to the perpetual left turn of roller rink skating, until the DJ announced the dreaded “couples song.”  The young guys, who at the time still believed in cooties and whose voices hadn’t yet changed, scattered to the safety of the sidelines, making room for teenage couples wearing glo-sticks, rolling around hand in hand.  What a strange concept: going to some place to roll around in circles to cheesy 80’s tunes.  This might be a good idea to make other mundane things much more enjoyable, such as waiting in a bank line, or getting your license renewed at the Secretary of State.  If only you could just roll around in a roped-off area while listening to the rockin’ sounds of Kenny Loggins, then time would go buy so much more quickly.

I use Erbal Essence on my hair...it's a totally organic experienceIn the cult classic “Xanadu”, Olivia Newton-John has to put her roller skating skills to the test.  She plays a magical muse named Kira, who is unleashed from a bad 80’s mural painting, along with her muse sisters, by a starving artist named Sonny Malone. Sonny is played by Michael “Call me Swan” Beck of “The Warriors” fame, whose dreams of success go beyond re-painting bad album covers as promotional posters (larger scale printing technology apparently was still in the dark ages during the 80’s.).  Sonny gets a little sugar from Kira on a boardwalk in Venice Beach, and then she turns into a yellow beam of disco light and mysteriously disappears.  That frightful scene of dark magic doesn’t seem to phase him one bit though, as he decides to try to find her on astolen moped.  Who doesn’t love a girl that can re-materialize on a whim, anyway?  Soon she starts showing up in his album paintings, on old TV shows, in the dictionary, and teleports into dark corners.  She’s sort of a Jason Vorhees with leg warmers stalking Sonny.  She then lures him to an art-deco wrestling arena, where she casts an “eye of Newton” love spell on him, and convinces him to give up his crappy day job and start a dance club  with piles of money from Danny, played by the legendary Gene Kelly.

My theory is that Olivia isn’t even a mystical muse as she claims, but she’s actually just a shrewd real estate woman looking for some good investment opportunities.  The glowing is easily explained by a diet high in phosphorus.  Olivia and Sonny express their love by turning into animated fish and vest-wearing birds that dance to songs by ELO.  No, you’re not hallucinating.  I prefer to give a nice box of chocolates and flowers than to transmogrify.  She then enlists the help of Danny, whose mind is permanently stuck in the 1940’s as he hallucinates, talks to his vintage record player, and makes faces at himself in the mirror.  Poor guy, the dementia was already setting in.

Danny and Sonny argue over who dresses more silly See the conspiracy plot unfold as Sonny and Danny turn the run-down arena into a shimmering temple of 80’s decadence called “Xanadu”, where people of every race and creed will be able to roller skate, dance, and perform tight-rope walking.  With mission accomplished, Kira returns to her Purgatory world of endless voids and neon racing stripes, but Sonny’s love for her won’t keep them apart, so he goes to her world to argue with Zeus for her immediate release.  Because if anyone can convince Zeus, it’s a guy in a Hawaiian shirt wearing roller skates!  Xanadu’s opening night is a hit, filled with circus rejects, mimes, 80’s punk rockers, beatniks, ravers, shavers, mash-potaters, and people in pink neon and metallic clothes.  It’s like a Star Trek convention, only with fewer virgins.  Will Sonny and Kira’s love keep them together for a night of Xanadu, or will the Greek gods put a kibosh on their disco plans?

Honestly, by every account I should have absolutely hated this movie/musical.  It’s horrible acting, it’s plot-less, it’s disco, and the cheese definitely goes on thick.  Yet I’ve watched it 3 times already, and my kids love it, as well.  There really is something unique and endearing about this bizarre little film, and the soundtrack by ELO makes this movie shine (or glow in this case).  The film has also been made into a hit Broadway play, even though the original actors claim this film ended their acting careers.  So check out this cult classic, but don’t forget your glo-sticks.

Keep an eye out for...

– ELO-rama
– Roller-Derby dancing
– The high-pro glow dancers
– Gratuitous interior mansion decoration
– Paranormal big band stand apparitions
– Long bikes rides on short piers
– Dancing fish with leg warmers
– Near train collisions
– Skater-fu
– Disco themed Purgatory
– Western theme roller-rink hallucinations
– Illegal use of Gene Kelly in a pimp suit—5 yard penalty.

“Xanadu, it’s like sniffing glue. It’s like dropping acid, too. It’s up to you, Xanadu!” everyone sing!!!

rated 9.6 out of 10 for the movie


YES YOU CAN WATCH THE ENTIRE MOVIE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!! CAN YOU HANDLE THAT??