Film / Xanadu

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"Where time stops and the magic never ends."

"A place where nobody dared to go..."
The opening lyric to the title song

For the trope previously called Xanadu, please see here.

What has Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, that guy from The Warriors (AKA Michael Beck), roller skates, lots of glowing blue people, all to an Electric Light Orchestra soundtrack?

The 1980 movie musical Xanadu is a story about a frustrated artist named Sonny Malone (Beck) 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 (Newton-John) — finds and kisses him. Shortly after, he meets Danny McGuire (Kelly), 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 Greek 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 titular roller disco's title comes from the poem "Kublai Khan" and refers to a province where Khan establishes his pleasure garden—never mind 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.


"Your tropes will shine for you, Xanadu":

  • The '80s: The movie stands at the nexus between '70s cheese and '80s cheese.
  • Animated Music Video: The "Don't Walk Away" segment, created by Don Bluth.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Xanadu the club is a success, but Kira must go back to Mount Olympus, but Sonny afterwards meets a waitress identical to her.
  • Camp: This movie has been described as unintentional early '80s John Waters.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Adapted by Marvel Comics for its Marvel Super Special series.
  • Conspicuously Light Patch: The "mystical aura" variant happens to Sonny as he enters the muses' world, as seen here.
  • Costume Test Montage: When Sonny takes Danny to get some new clothes.
  • Costume Porn: Many of the numbers.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Sonny ends up parting ways with Kira, only to meet a waitress identical to her at the end. Or the waitress actually is Kira, trying for a version of the relationship her family can at least pretend they don't know about, if her remarks about her parents are anything to go by.
  • 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'".
  • 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. The stage version adds "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic."
  • Landmark of Lore: Pan Pacific Auditorium and the Hollywood Sign.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Sonny is a normal human, while Kira, with whom he falls in love, is one of the Muses from Mount Olympus.
  • Medium-Shift Gag: An interlude courtesy of Don Bluth, his first post-Disney animation work.
  • 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".
  • Phosphor-Essence: Olivia Newton-John's character, due to being The Muse.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: It is loosely based on Classical Mythology.
    • For example; Kira would be better off as muses Euterpre (Flutes and lyrics) and Terpsicore (Dance). Also; At one point, Zeus (a guy noted for his penchant for carnal relations on many levels) states that the Gods are above such things as carnal relations.
  • 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). See "Shout-Out" below. 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 vs. 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.
  • Sugar Bowl: This may be an adult version of this.
  • The Television Talks Back: When Kira tries to prove she really is a Muse, she uses her power to make a gangster on a movie on a TV ask Sonny if he should off his captive or not.
  • Tron Lines: Kira's entrances and exits are filled with glowing lines.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: The musical version takes some scripted swipes at the movie and how lame it was.
  • "You!" Exclamation: So Sonny has been painting an album cover featuring Kira. Later, when he sees her on the street, he yells out "You!" (and she answers "Me!").

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Xanadu