Tag Archives: Meshach Taylor

Mannequin (1987, Michael Gottlieb)

When Mannequin is at its best, it makes one forget about its worst. There’s a lot of weak writing–and some strong writing–and director Gottlieb is terrible with actors. What’s so strange about his inability to direct them (most visible with Carole Davis) is how well other performances turn out. Both James Spader and G.W. Bailey are playing, at best, thinly written buffoon roles, but both of them are entirely committed and it leads to some successes.

The film gets off to a rocky start–after a nice animated opening credits sequence–because Gottlieb can’t find his narrative distance. Lead Andrew McCarthy often seems like he’s waiting for some kind of direction, not getting any, then proceeding ahead. Without Gottlieb getting any better, the film gets comfortable pretty soon after Kim Cattrall reappears–she’s McCarthy’s mannequin (who only he can see).

Like Mannequin needs any explanation.

There are a number of montages, which are usually successful thanks to Tim Suhrstedt’s photography and Sylvester Levay’s music. It helps McCarthy and Cattrall are, if not actually having fun, giving the impression of it. The film never finds a tone, which doesn’t help the actors, but they muddle through. Gottlieb seems like he wants it to be realistic, but it’s absurd in concept and his execution.

Estelle Getty also suffers from Gottlieb’s direction, but she’s still likable. Meshach Taylor starts as a caricature but soon becomes a reliable sidekick to McCarthy.

The leads’ chemistry and sincerity–and Levay’s music–carry the picture.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Gottlieb; written by Edward Rugoff and Gottlieb; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Frank E. Jimenez and Richard Halsey; music by Sylvester Levay; production designer, Josan F. Russo; produced by Art Levinson; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Andrew McCarthy (Jonathan Switcher), Kim Cattrall (Emmy), Estelle Getty (Claire Timkin), James Spader (Richards), G.W. Bailey (Felix), Carole Davis (Roxie), Steve Vinovich (B.J. Wert), Christopher Maher (Armand), Phyllis Newman (Emmy’s Mother) and Meshach Taylor (Hollywood Montrose).


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Mannequin: On the Move (1991, Stewart Raffill)

If the best part of your movie is a Starship song recycled from the nearly unrelated previous entry in the franchise… you’re in trouble.

It’s not hard to identify the biggest problem with Mannequin: On the Move, but it feels somewhat bad to single out Kristy Swanson when there’s so much other terrible stuff going on in the picture.

And it’s not even entirely Swanson’s fault. Towards the end of the movie, she’s actually quite appealing. But for the first two-thirds, as a tenth century girl awakened in the twentieth century, she’s an unappealing moron. Every scene bombs.

Once she’s acclimated, however, Swanson’s not bad at all.

Unfortunately, the terrible plotting also affects leading man William Ragsdale. Ragsdale has no time to make an impression before he’s acting like a doofus around a mannequin. The screenwriters don’t even bother making him sympathetic, only later giving him a tragic backstory.

On to the other big problem (besides the writing in general)–Terry Kiser is atrocious. Playing a Bavarian royal, Kiser does a combination of a Mae West impression and evil forties Japanese villain.

As for the supporting cast, Meshach Taylor is okay (the script fails him often) and Stuart Pankin is mostly bad (though sometimes good). In tiny roles, both Andrew Hill Newman and Julie Foreman are great.

Raffill’s not a good director, but Larry Pizer’s photography is excellent, as is most of William J. Creber’s production design.

On the Move‘s a stinker and, oddly, shouldn’t have been one.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stewart Raffill; screenplay by Edward Rugoff, Michael Gottlieb, David Isaacs, Ken Levine and Betty Israel, based on a story by Rugoff and Gottlieb; director of photography, Larry Pizer; edited by Joan E. Chapman and John Rosenberg; music by David McHugh; production designer, William J. Creber; produced by Bruce McNall and Rugoff; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Kristy Swanson (Jessie), William Ragsdale (Jason Williamson), Meshach Taylor (Hollywood Montrose), Terry Kiser (Count Spretzle), Stuart Pankin (Mr. James), Cynthia Harris (Jason’s Mom), Julie Foreman (Gail), John Edmondson (Rolf), Phil Latella (Egon), Mark Gray (Arnold) and Andrew Hill Newman (Andy Ackerman).


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