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Film: Xanadu
Where time stops and the magic never ends.
Xanadu tagline

For the trope previously called Xanadu, please see here.

What has Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, that guy from The Warriors, roller skates, lots of glowing blue people, quasi-disco music, and a continuous string of Big Lipped Alligator Moments?

The 1980 movie musical Xanadu is a story about a frustrated artist named Sonny Malone (the guy from The Warriors) who paints album covers for a living and is unhappy about it. By tossing some of his drawings into the wind, he somehow brings a painting on a wall of nine girls to life and one of them — Kira — finds and kisses him. Shortly after, he meets Danny McGuire, a former big band leader. The two strike up a friendship and, with encouragement from Kira, make plans to convert an abandoned building (The Pan Pacific Auditorium) into a roller disco. Sonny and Kira meanwhile fall in love, with there being the slight complication that she's actually the Muse of Dance and Choral Singing (yes, really) and was only sent to bring Xanadu into creation. Soon, she will have to return home, just as Xanadu will be opening.

The roller disco (and film's) title comes from the poem "Kublai Khan" and refers to a province where Khan establishes his pleasure garden but completely ignores the irony of naming a movie about a muse with a notoriously unfinished poem.

Widely panned by critics, it found a cult audience. It has now been adapted into a stage musical that doesn't even bother to hide how camp the whole thing is.


Xanadu contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Danny's "oh, I've been known to twinkle a toe or two."
  • Bar Slide: During the big Xanadu opening number/medley, specifically during "Get on the first stage out of this town".
  • Between My Legs: A spider woman crawls through a tunnel of legs in the "All Over The World" segment.
  • Breakaway Pop Hit: The title song, as well as "Magic", "All Over the World", "Alive", and "Suddenly".
  • Camp: This movie has been described as unintentional early '80s John Waters.
  • Classical Mythology: Loosely based on it.
  • Costume Test Montage: When Sonny takes Danny to get some new clothes.
  • Conspicuously Light Patch
  • Costume Porn: Many of the numbers.
  • The Eighties: The movie stands at the nexus between '70s cheese and '80s cheese.
  • Executive Meddling
  • Fantastic Romance: Sonny and Kira
  • Genre Blending: Music-wise, anyway. The soundtrack veers from pop to disco to big-band-swing to rock.
    • A good single-song example: "Dancin'".
  • Hollywood California
  • I Always Wanted to Say That
    Danny: Opening night...whatever you want, it's on the house! You know, I've always wanted to say that line!
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Danny and Sonny.
  • Jukebox Musical: The stage musical version is essentially one for the Electric Light Orchestra, whose leader, Jeff Lynne, produced most of the music for the film and the stage version adds "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic."
  • Landmark of Lore: Pan Pacific Auditorium and the Hollywood Sign.
  • Mayfly-December Romance
  • Medium Shift: An interlude courtesy of Don Bluth, his first post-Disney animation work.
  • Money, Dear Boy: The reason for Gene Kelly's involvement. That and the job was close to his home. Still, Gene Kelly has stated that working with Olivia Newton-John was great.
  • The Musical: The only thing that was considered quality work was the music — everything else, not so much. The Broadway version was a cheerfully absurd Refuge In Funny/Refuge In Cool Music laugh-fest with a load of Take Thats at the movie.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Sort of; in the opening title, there's a slight implication of aliens in the form of a UFO flying across a picture of Earth, which is further helped along by a robot-like thing showing up in a musical number. However, unless you're The Nostalgia Chick, you may not have noticed. The "robot-like thing" was likely supposed to be a train pulling in—though one could see how the Chick might've been seeking any respite at that point...
  • Notable Original Music: The soundtrack for this movie was a huge success and several cuts from album got air time on radio, including the Breakaway Pop Hit "Magic" (which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart), "Suddenly" and "All Over The World".
  • Old Shame:
    • For Electric Light Orchestra, who wrote and performed several of the songs. Jeff Lynne eventually came to terms with it, though, and released an album with rerecorded Xanadu tracks.
    • Director Robert Greenwald, who's more recently made a name for himself as a left-wing muckraking documentary director (Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price).
    • Michael Beck (the guy from The Warriors).
    Michael Beck: The Warriors opened a lot of doors in film for me, which Xanadu then closed.
  • Phosphor-Essence: Olivia Newton-John's character, due to being The Muse.
  • The Power of Love
  • Present Day: In 1980.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: A Broadway musical in 2007 that, unlike most examples of the trope, had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.
  • Shared Universe: Implied. Prior to this film, Gene Kelly also played a character named "Danny McGuire" in the film Cover Girl (no relation to the cosmetics company). This film is later referenced in Down To Earth (sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan), which features Rita Hayworth (who was also in Cover Girl) as "Terpsichore", but uses the name "Kitty" in her Earth form. It should be mentioned that all three of the films in question were released by Columbia, while this movie was released by Universal.
  • Shout-Out: Gene Kelly's character has the same name and much of the same backstory as the character he played in the 1944 film Cover Girl; Danny's backstory in Xanadu sounds suspiciously like a version of "Cover Girl" without the happy ending.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: As idealistic as it gets.
  • Song Style Shift: "Dancin'" alternates between 40's-style swing and New Wave rock.
  • Step Three: Profit: 1) Meld Glam Rock and Big Band. 2) ??? 3) Profit with a Starlight Express Expy.
  • Stop Trick
  • Sugar Bowl: This may be an adult version of this.
  • The Television Talks Back
  • Tron Lines
  • Unintentional Period Piece: A veritable time capsule of late 70s - early 80s fads, fashion, and music styles.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: The musical version takes some scripted swipes at the movie and how lame it was.
  • You! Exclamation

The WizThe MusicalX-Play
Without WarningFilms of the 1980sYou Never Dreamed

alternative title(s): Xanadu
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