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Film / Mannequin

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Romance, magic, and goofing around.

Mannequin is a 1987 romantic comedy film written and directed by Michael Gottlieb, about a new employee (Andrew McCarthy) at a struggling old department store who discovers that one of their mannequins (Kim Cattrall, later star of Sex and the City) comes alive, but only when they are alone (it is actually an ancient Egyptian princess under a curse.) They fall in love and, with her help, he revitalizes the store thanks to the crazy window displays he designs. Meshach Taylor (of Designing Women) plays the supporting role of Hollywood and G. W. Bailey does his usual schtick as Security Captain Felix.

This is 1980s High Concept, that still never tries to be anything other than silly and fun.

Though apparently based on an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959), the director insists he just came up with the idea after seeing an optical illusion in a store window that made one of the mannequins appear to move. It also shares striking similarities with the 1948 film One Touch of Venus, in which a statue of the goddess comes to life when kissed by a young window dresser.

There was also a sequel released in 1991 called Mannequin 2: On the Move. It stars William Ragsdale and Kristy Swanson, and Meshach reprises his role as Hollywood.

Contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: G. W. Bailey plays a hard-ass security guard who has many of the pratfalls happen to him over the course of the movie. Do we consider Captain Harris a promotion or 'de'-motion from this role?
  • Ambiguously Gay: Arguably Mr. Richards, who, while not as flamboyant as Hollywood, has his gay moments.
  • And This Is for...: Spoofed.
  • Animated Credits Opening: In which the Egyptian princess travels the world while being whisked through history and, among other things, proves to Columbus that the world is round. She briefly visited the future before backtracking. All in line with the Rule of Funny.
  • Award-Bait Song: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, by Starship.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Apparently Switcher was meant to bring the mannequin to life and break her curse, since only a Starving Artist could sense all the right parts to put together to make her. And of course the whole bit with him being the only one who can see her.
  • Benevolent Boss: Claire Timkin, who recently took over running Prince and Company after her husband died, fits the bill. She offers Jonathan a job immediately after he rescues her from a falling sign, lets him design whatever he likes (unlike other bosses, who all fire him for being too artistic), and gives him two promotions (one to head of visual merchandising and one to vice-president) when she sees what amazing work he's doing. Claire also fires her Jerkass employees without hesitation and, at the end of the film, announces that she has enough video evidence to see all of the bad guys put away for good (while secretly assuring Jonathan that he doesn't have to worry about any possible recordings of him with Emmy in mannequin form).
  • Bland-Name Product: Prince and Company was in reality the landmark Philadelphia department store John Wanamaker (nowadays it's a Macy's), while Illustra was a Boscov's (a regional department store, still around today).
  • Camp Gay: Hollywood (that's his name).
  • Cassandra Truth: By the end of the film, Felix is reduced to screaming that Ema is "the dummy", but for obvious reasons nobody believes him. Frankly, this puts him in an even more awkward position, as Ema adds kidnapping to their current charges and Felix agrees that he took her against her will even if he says she was a mannequin at the time.
  • Caught on Tape: How Claire indicates (to the security personnel for Illustra) she found out about Richards.
  • Cool Old Lady: Claire Timkin (Estelle Getty), who recently took over running Prince and Company from her deceased husband. Unlike Richards, she wants to keep Prince and Company a going concern, and gives Jonathan a job on the spot after rescuing her from a near-disaster involving an exterior sign.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: In the late part of the film, Felix purchases a dog he calls "Terminator". It's either an Incompetent Guard Animal or uninterested.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Though they're not actually engaged, Roxie fits the bill — she's vain, scheming and generally a jerk; it's enough to make one wonder how she and Jonathan ever got together.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Pet Homosexual uses a fire hose to blast a gaggle of security guards and cops. Then he runs out of water and the hose... deflates.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Dude, She's Like, Out Cold in a Pile of Trash!: Roxie clearly didn't appreciate the on-the-lips wake up kiss she got from the janitor near the end of the film.
  • The '80s: Part of the film's charm.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When Claire orders charges be laid against Felix and Richards, the other Illustra security guards realize they were unwitting accessories to burglary and thus have no problem putting the cuffs on their employers.
  • Expy: Felix is pretty much Lt. Harris from Police Academy, demoted to a store security guard.
  • Faint in Shock: Emmy's ride on the hanglider in the store is so overwhelming, she passes out right after.
  • Fire Hose Cannon: Hollywood uses a fire hose to hold off a bunch of security guards so Jonathan can save Emmy from being killed in a trash compactor.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Felix when he gets hauled away near the end during his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Incompetent Guard Animal: Felix, now working at Illustra, has one at the ready in his final confrontation with Jonathan.
    Felix: Terminator... lunch time! GET HIM!!
    Jonathan (as Terminator runs right by him without stopping) Nice dog. (runs off)
  • Intimate Lotion Application: When Jonathan and Emmy and pretending to be on the beach at the mall, she flirts with him by saying the "sun is hot" and how nice would it be to have someone rub lotion on her back (which is possible since she's wearing a Sexy Backless Outfit). He takes the hint and gets some lotion, and it doesn't take long until they drop the pretense and just start making out.
    Emmy: The sun feels pretty strong. I could use some suntan lotion...
    [she turns to lay on her stomach, exposing her bare back to him]
    Emmy: [in a breathy voice] If only someone were willing to rub it on...
    Jonathan: Well, It's a dirty job...
    [he picks up a sunscreen bottle and casually flips it upside down]
    Jonathan: But somebody's gotta do it.
  • Jerkass: Arguably, Switcher's boss at the mannequin factory in the beginning of the film. He fired Switcher because he cared about "quantity", not Switcher's artistic talent. The same goes for the later bosses at Switcher's take of numerous odd jobs.
    • Mr. Richards also counts.
  • Lame Rhyme Dodge: Switcher quickly covers with "Nice hall" after Richards overhears him calling him an asshole.
  • Large Ham: Hollywood. James Spader has fun as Mr. Richards. Also Felix (G.W. Bailey) and Armand.
  • Literal Ass-Kissing: An accidental case of this in the movie, as when two guys, Richards and Felix, plan to have Jonathan Switcher work for a competing fashion clothing store by stealing mannequins from the Prince & Company display window, Richards has his mouth buried in a mannequin's behind while carrying it.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: When Roxy submits to her Abhorrent Admirer, she goes about it so abhorrently that he is unable to perform.
  • Loophole Abuse: A few cases for Emmy in particular; while she appears to be a mannequin to anyone but Jonathan, she is free to move around so long as nobody is actually looking at her even if she's in their presence, she freely rode through Philadelphia with him on a motorbike (likely because she was moving too fast for anyone to clearly see if she was alive or a mannequin), and she can apparently move in the presence of animals.
    • However, there are quite a few shots during the chase sequence that alternate between her being alive and plastic, presumably depending on how close the car chasing them (with Mr. Richards and Felix inside) is.
  • Meaningful Name: Johnathan Switcher, who's job was to rearrange (switch) the mannequins in the storefront window.
  • The Mole: Richards is secretly working for B.J. Wert. Claire didn’t know this at the time she fired him and Felix, however.
  • Mummy Wrap: Ema somehow did this to herself to hide in a tomb back in ancient Egypt.
  • Perception Filter: No one can see the mannequin alive and moving except Switcher (until his desperate act to save her and The Power of Love breaks her curse).
  • Picture-Perfect Presentation: At the end, in imitation of how the mannequin had been posing and going from life to mannequin, she, Switcher, Hollywood, and the store owner all pose as part of a wedding-themed store window before "coming alive" to finish the actual wedding with the priest.
  • Pretty in Mink: When the leads are goofing around the store, in one part they hang around the fur department and Ema wears a huge fur coat, then flashes her undies underneath.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Mr. Richards.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Hollywood is played as camp, although in ways meant to laugh with him more than at him.
  • Rebellious Princess: Ema placed herself under a curse because she doesn't want to be forced in an Arranged Marriage.
  • The Rival: Illustra to Prince & Company.
  • Rule of Funny: They didn't even try to go for accuracy with Ancient Egypt. It was all evidently for laughs.
  • Saving the Department Store: There's a level of this occurring in what Switcher does at Prince & Company, since by being able to finally use his creativity, he designs mannequin windows that wow the crowds and revitalize the store — which had, thanks to The Rival Illustra and a lack of imagination, been doing very poorly (ironically now the case for Illustra) and was in danger of closing. He becomes Vice President, when Richards is fired, for it.
  • Secret Chaser: Felix. By the time he knows for a fact the (now-living) woman in front of him is the mannequin but he can't prove it and no one will believe him, he seems pretty close to a nervous breakdown.
  • Secret-Keeper: Claire tells Switcher that she knows something was going on between him and Ema.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: Switcher and Ema act like an affluent, but bored, married couple when they are playing around in the store. Ema then flashes the fur coat she is wearing to show her bra and panties.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: The mummy bandages that are left after our protagonist gets magically whisked away.
  • Starving Artist: Switcher. It's implied that only a true artist could have brought Ema to life.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Felix attempts to jump a ramp in an alleyway in pursuit of Jonathan and Ema...and wedges the car in between the buildings!
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Thanks to the installation of a CCTV system in the store after Felix's firing, Claire has clear proof of Richards and Felix stealing mannequins and are arrested on-the-spot for breaking-and-entering and grand theft. Claire also tells Illustra's President he will be facing conspiracy charges for his involvement.
  • Take My Hand!: During the finale, saving the mannequin from the assembly line chopper.
  • Vanity License Plate: Hollywood's plate reads "BADGIRL".
  • Woman Scorned: Roxie, who (more for this reason than because she works for Illustra) ends up trying to vengefully destroy the mannequin girl for whom Switcher jilted her. (Though naturally, she was shown to be shallow as a puddle, vain, and dismissive of his talents and future prospects to justify this.)

The sequel contains examples of:

  • Annoying Arrows: Count Spretzle attempts to use a crossbow to take out Jason. When that attempt fails, he starts dropping empty vases to the floor below.
  • Ascended Extra: Andrew Newman appears in a minor role in the last several minutes of the previous film as a janitor at Illustra. Here, he has a bigger supporting role as Andy, the Prince & Company security guard. It's not established whether it's intended to be the same character.
  • Big Bad: Count Gunther Spretzle.
  • Casting Gag: Count Spretzle is played by Terry Kiser, who had earlier been in another Gladden film, Weekend at Bernie's. That film also had the first Mannequin's lead, Andrew McCarthy, in a lead role; here, he's pitted against someone very similar to McCarthy's character from the first Mannequin.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: The quartet of antagonists in the first movie were little more than an overzealous security guard, a duo of scheming department store executives and a woman irritated by her boyfriend's sudden obsession with a mannequin. Here, the main villain is a (somehow age-defying) European noble who has waited a thousand years to enact his plan, backed up by a trio of bumbling German bodybuilders.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Jessie will be restored to life either once a thousand years pass, or if she finds love in a foreign land.
  • Faint in Shock:
    • Jessie, when Jason demonstrates a fire extinguisher to her.
    • Jason's mom twice, when she realizes Jason is in love with a dummy, and then when Count Spretzle flirts with her.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Jessie.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The current queen of Hauptmann-Koenig; she's only in one scene, but it's heavily implied Count Spretzle stole valuables from her and fled to America in fear of her.
  • Ham and Cheese: Between Hollywood and Count Spretzle, the ham's basically flying all over the place.
  • Identical Grandson: Jessie briefly mistakes Jason for William, and it's implied that he IS William's descendant.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Spretzle is defeated when Jason puts the cursed necklace on him, turning him into a mannequin, after Jason realized he couldn't kill Spretzle. Spretzle then falls from the hot-air balloon and shatters into pieces upon impact with the street. His three henchman attempt to retrieve the pieces and put him back together, but a street-sweeper promptly comes along and sucks up the Spretzle bits. That said, he did somehow get reassembled and put on display in Hauptmann-Koenig, akin to Jessie before she was sent to Philadelphia.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: William's mother disapproves of his love for Jessie so much that she has the poor girl turned into a wooden statue.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Count Spretzle was somehow able to keep himself alive for 1000 years.
  • Ruritania: Hauptmann-Koenig.
  • Second Love: Jason for Jessie.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Everyone from the first movie except for Hollywood. It could be argued that, after Prince & Company was revitalized in the first film, they hired lots of new employees (including Mr. James) who now run the store day-to-day, which would at least explain the absence of Claire Timkin.
  • Special Effects Evolution: This film appears to have had slightly more of a budget than the first one, and this includes actual effects to indicate the necklace's curse either taking effect or being reversed, as well as a go-kart chase around the store's perimeter, an elaborate stage show that provides the backdrop for Jason and Count Spretzle's saber duel, and finally a hot air balloon taking off over the streets of Philadelphia.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Stuart Pankin's Mr. James for Mr. Richards from the first film, being a stuffy, overbearing supervisor, though he's still different in other ways (namely he's not secretly working for a rival store).
  • Taken for Granite: Well, taken for wood, actually - the curse turns Jessie into a wooden icon.
  • Uptown Girl: Prince William is a Gender Flipped example for peasant girl Jessie.