Mannequin (1987)
Mannequin (1987)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: February 13th, 1987 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Michael Gottlieb Actors: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, James Spader, G.W. Bailey, Carole Davis, Meshach Taylor

 


 

I

n Edfu, Egypt, a really long time ago, Emmy (Kim Cattrall) is betrothed to a camel dung dealer. She pleads with the gods to get her out of this predicament and, sure enough, she’s transported to present-day Philadelphia, her soul buried deep in a mannequin being sculpted by an unsuspecting artist. That craftsman is Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy), working hard to finish up his latest model – but his attention to detail, causing great delays, gets him canned. His follow-up jobs of managing balloons at a kid’s birthday party, trimming hedges for a landscaping company, and making pizzas, end up in similar situations. He’s a bit too creative for his own good, and his girlfriend Roxie (Carole Davis), who works for major retailer Illustra, is fed up with his daydreaming. He needs to grow up. The next day, he ends up accidentally swinging from a dangling 100th Anniversary sign being hung outside Prince and Company, a towering but continually uninhabited department store. Apologetically, the owner Claire Timkin (a surprisingly young Estelle Getty) gives him a job. He’s assigned as a stockboy to the lingerie department by arrogant manager Mr. Richards (a surprisingly young James Spader), who immediately catches him stumbling into the women’s dressing room.

Jonathan meets eccentric, flamboyantly gay window dresser Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor in what is probably the best role in the film), who coincidentally designs displays using the very mannequin Jonathan assembled. One night, the lay figure comes alive, explaining that she’s Emmy, an ancient Egyptian who has been travelling around from body to body, century to century. She’s settled on the Prince and Company doll because it just feels right. And with the help of Jonathan, the duo starts creating the most fascinating, innovative window displays. He’s promptly promoted to Visual Merchandiser, but like Rumpelstiltskin’s gold-spinning capabilities, he’s now expected to continue with his genius creations, without additional aid – as Emmy informs him that no one else can see her come alive (in an unclear, undefined sort of pseudo-curse gimmick).

The tone of the film is very light but exceptionally silly. Even during more problematic moments, such as when a deranged, inept, bigoted mall cop, Captain Felix Maxwell (G.W. Bailey), assaults Jonathan after he catches him rolling around on the floor with the half naked dummy, the solution is slapstick (the same dose of nonsense is applied later on when he must flee from an army of patrolmen). At least, the security guard is adorned with a fun-loving bulldog companion. A particularly odd predicament becomes a target for laughs when all of Jonathan’s coworkers think he’s romantically involved with the plastic woman – he’s delusional and a pervert, but it’s perfectly acceptable because he’s one of those creative types.

Although the idea is unique, in a “Weird Science” sort of way (here, a juvenile fantasy for teenage boys despite targeting a largely female crowd), the execution is sketchy at best. Filling up the screentime are rapid transitions and old-fashioned wipes, ludicrous montages involving a plethora of costume changes and unexplained props (this department store has everything!), and dancing around with the music blasting – along with implied lovemaking with the molded form. There are also a lot of goofy attempts at corporate espionage and exposing Jonathan as a freak – although his perceived debauchery is the least of his concerns.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10