Like nothing you've ever seen before!
Like any money-making entity—especially in the world of entertainment—merchandising is the key to financial fulfillment. When the Village People took over the disco world in the late '70s, their flamboyant costumes and outrageous stage shows naturally begged to be showcased in a feature film—thus ensued director Nancy Walker's (Murder By Death) gaudy song and dance extravaganza Can't Stop the Music. Behold, thanks to Anchor Bay, the vocal stylins' of six oddly dressed men, the exuberance of a young Steve Gutenberg, and tremendous acting savoir flair of the multi-athletic Bruce Jenner.
Yes, you read that correctly. THE Bruce Jenner.
Can't Stop the Music belts its heart out on DVD, and our world is all the more better because of it!
Facts of the Case
Jack Morell (Steve Guttenberg, Three Men and a Baby) is a struggling composer. He house-sits for his friend, former supermodel Samantha Simpson (Valerie Perrine, What Women Want). A stroke of luck gets him in the DJ booth at one of NYC's hottest clubs, inspiring Samantha to hit up her music contacts and try to cut him a deal. First, though, they need a demo. Luckily, six of their friends—all men, explicably and inexplicably dressed in unusual costumes, like Indian (Felipe Rose), who hangs around in Native American headdress—happen to be decent singers, and before you know it, a band is born. After all, this is the '80s, a time when anything can and did happen!
Seriously, is the plot of Can't Stop the Music important? The funny thing is that the movie flows rapidly, it's full of charming gay camp, and while the acting isn't Oscar-caliber, it is very sincere. Shockingly, you may find yourself laughing more than cringing. In fact, two friends (as straight as straight can be, I might add) that watched this with me were totally suckered into the movie and were agog until the final, gay studded ending.
Guttenberg must have been on coke the entire filming. He's like a hyper Beaver Cleaver, eager to succeed and smiling the whole way though. Perrine as Samantha responds with her own cheesy wisecracks—but darn it, everyone seems so invested that even the frequently flustered Bruce Jenner's stiffness accentuates his character of stuffy lawyer Ron White. He also provides one of the best sight gags of the film, dressed in the fruitiest lookin' outfit this side of Fire Island.
The musical numbers are pure '80s excess. The one that needs mention, without a doubt, is the "YMCA" number. How this film got by the religious right is beyond me. Men wrestling in slow motion, boxers doing the cha-cha-cha—the YMCA scene is so gay it'd make a Marine start buying pink underwear. For me (a self proclaimed gay man in woman's body), the whole movie is a pure delight, and a telling display of how gay culture still managed to celebrate itself under the radar of '80s conservative watchdogs. Highly recommended.
The picture is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks pretty good. There isn't too much grain to be found (though enough to warrant mention), and only a few splotches of discolor and edge enhancement here and there. There's some diffuse lighting popular in the glamorous heydey of the early '80s, and taking that into account the colors are still not quite as crisp as they should be and shadows are a bit milky. Overall, the print works well for the film it supports—nothing more, nothing less. The widescreen aspect ratio nicely fits the split-screen effects used in the beginning and are crucial to showcase the wacky onstage musical numbers.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital ES and 6.1 ES Matrixed, both in English. Overall, this mix fits in the "it didn't need it, but it's nice to have it" category. The directional effects here are utilized fully when the songs and dance numbers come into play. Otherwise the bulk of this soundtrack is focused though the front and rear speakers. In one scene in the band's dressing room, I could hear Guttenberg's dainty footsteps as well as the screaming masses waiting outside all around me. Nice touch. The Dolby 2.0 mix is forgettable and obviously not recommended. English closed captions are also available on this disc.
As for extras, we get a trailer, a photo gallery, and a photo essay entitled "The Village People Story." The photo essay is unexciting but informative, and the trailer is just as entertaining as the movie. I can't believe people saw this trailer and took it seriously at all—I commend these people even though they're insane. The trailer is snack-size schlock and camp…and just plain wonderful!
Perhaps my tastes are individual. Perhaps not everyone enjoys watching Bruce Jenner in hot pants or Steve Guttenberg roller skating like a maniac in crowded New York streets. [Judge Patrick Naugle's Rebuttal: I do] Either way, this was a fun film and far more sweet and charming than I ever could have imagined. The lesson here is this: If no one looks embarrassed to be in a film and instead throws themselves into it full throttle, it can be one heck of a movie. Or a train wreck. You decide.
A nice package for camp fans and gay film collectors alike. Nonstop fun, charm, and dialogue cheesier than Velveeta will take you back to the good old days of the '80s. However, a fine must be charged for the less-than-stupendous extra features. Sentenced to one night at the YMCA!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Theatrical Trailer
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