Pop Culture With Elizabeth

Who Remembers ‘Mannequin'?

I remember seeing Mannequin for the first time when I was very young.  Back then I don’t recall having a very strong opinion of it other than, “Wow, a mannequin that comes alive!  That would be great!”  Now, of course, my pop culture-addled mind sees it for what it truly is: the launch pad for Samantha “I like sex” Jones. In this film, Kim Cattrall plays a fantasy girl who lives, quite literally, for her man.  Also, we should all be clear that this is a film about a man who has a relationship with a doll.  I don’t care how you twist it, that’s what we’re looking at.  If you guys are still up for it, lets dive in.

The film opens with Kim bandaged like a mummy in the bowels of an Egyptian tomb.  All that is visible of her is her eyes, which is perfect because we just need to see her roll them as her Mom, Cleopatra apparently, tells her she has to marry the man that has been picked for her.  “He’s a businessman,” exclaims Cleopatra. “He sells camel dung,” whines Kim.  Egyptian LOLs!  Kim begs the gods to free her from her destiny, then there’s a crash of thunder and she disappears, leaving only her bandages for her mother to weep over.  Cut to: animated opening credits!  Why did this trend die out?!

Present day New York.  That simpering male lead from Pretty In Pink (let’s call him Mr. Simper) is working in a mannequin factory, singing ‘My Girl’ to his newest creation as he fits her naked torso onto different bottom halves.  “Wrong sex!” he laughs as he slides it atop of a pair of male legs.  Mannequin worker LOLs!  His boss harrumphs over and tells him off for his slow production, “But I’m a sculptor!” he protests.  No you’re not, you’re a creepy man who likes making his perfect woman in doll-form.  (That’s me saying that, not the boss.  The boss fires him.)  The scene ends with a close up on the mannequin’s face.  Ooh, I feel like they’re trying to tell us something…

Woah forget that, look at this AWESOME fade out!

NEW JOB MONTAGE: Our lead, Mr. Simper, tries a variety of new careers including: children’s entertainer where he rocks white flares and gives a kid a balloon so huge it lifts him into the air, a gardener who dresses like he’s on safari for some reason and a pizza chef.  He gets fired from all his new positions because he’s “a sculptor” and wants everything he does to be “a work of art”.  What a catch!  My laptop better be careful or I might just dive into the picture like in that A-ha video and make this guy my own!  Oh, AND he has a motorbike!

In all seriousness, I know some of you probably had/have a thing for Andrew McCarthy, so I want to make it clear that it’s all about personal taste and I respect your right to crush.  However, I will say that the costume department has let him down somewhat.  I imagine we’re supposed to find him sexy and rugged here but all I see is a guy in grey nylon trousers, big white socks and bowling shoes.  Surely anyone who wears bowling shoes outside of the alley is just going to slip up constantly?  Wait, have I guessed the hilarious “whoopsie daisy” scene that’s coming up?!

Mr. Simper pulls up at a classy department store.  We know that it’s classy because it has sparky silver windows.  Outside is a gaggle of rent-a-yuppies, just waiting to look down their nose at our sensitive clown.  The female yuppie greets Mr. Simper and climbs onto the back of the motorbike while explaining to her friends, “His Jaguar’s in the shop.”  This tells us two things: 1. Mr. Simper has a yuppie girlfriend and 2. His yuppie girlfriend (we’ll call her Ms. Thing) is stuck up. I don’t think we’ve found our leading lady yet, kids.

After Mr. Simper suggests they eschew dinner at a suave ’80s bistro and go for a hot dog and a walk instead, the following exchange occurs:

Ms. Thing: dejectedly You lost your job again?!

Mr. Simper: trying to laugh it off Oh I didn’t lose it, I know where it is, I just don’t have it anymore.

Redundancy LOLs!

After their date, Ms. Thing says she doesn’t want to sleep with Mr. Simper tonight because she thinks it will only complicate things.  She tells him to go see a shrink or at least ring a radio psychiatrist.  What is this,  Fraiser?  Mr. Simper is left in the street with a bike that won’t start and then the heavens open, sad music wailing in the background as rain pounds onto the pavement.  In the writing business they call this the pathetic fallacy.  Well it sure is pathetic.

Pushing his bike home, Mr. Simper spots his own mannequin in a shop window.  Being the creep that he is, he’s transfixed by it.  He presses his face up against the glass like an orphan outside Willy Wonka  and squeals, “I wanted to take you home but they wouldn’t let me!” EWWW, WHY? WHY DID YOU WANT HER IN YOUR HOUSE? WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO DO WITH HER?!  The following day we find Mr. Simper lurking outside the department store where his mannequin is displayed.  Then follows a hilarious moment where an older lady gets out of a yellow cab and whacks a man in the groin without realising.  Isn’t that the funniest thing in the whole entire world?!

The lady tells Mr. Simper loads of boring exposition blah blah blah, mainly about how the store is 100 years old and was originally opened by her grandfather (ridiculous name alert) Tough Teddy Prince who died the way he wanted to, “in women’s lingerie”.  She means in the women’s lingerie department, you silly billies! Anyway, the ‘100 years old’ sign nearly crashes to the ground so Mr. Simper (whose real name is finally revealed as Jonathan Switcher, which isn’t that different to Simper, so lets stick with that) jumps on the sign and rides it, electrocuting his bum in the process.  The old lady gives him a job.  Ooh look, another amazing zazzy fade into…

JAMES SPADER OH MY GOODNESS I HAD TOTALLY FORGOTTEN JAMES SPADER WAS IN THIS.  I love JAMES SPADER, he has to be the ultimate creepy rich guy/suck up/perve the ’80s had to offer.  Here he is doing what he does best.  I love the slicked down side parting and round glasses, a look that screams untrustworthy.

And guess what, we hear him on the phone explaining that he’s planning on selling off the store to the highest bidder and taking the money for himself!  Dastardly!  Mr. Simper’s new job is sorting stock in the basement.  Yawn, but look, another FABULOUS fade.  This time it’s circles!

I think that’s my favourite fade so far.  What’s your favourite fade?  Tell me in the comments below and then we can all cuddle and be fade twins.  Mr. Simper keeps creeping around the windows of the department store trying to get some alone time with his mannequin.  Eventually he finds her and touches her face while murmuring that he’s in love.  So.  Freaking. Weird.

Err hello, who’s this?  Oh, you mean Hollywood Montrose? Yeah, he’s just the sassy window dresser who dreams of liposuction on his thighs.  Get over it. It’s not a big deal.  Men in the ’80s regularly wore butter yellow shirts, multi-colour sunglasses with eyelashes attached and floral trousers. Sorry, did I say men?  I meant drunk children’s entertainers.  OH MY GOODNESS, THE MANNEQUIN CAME ALIVE.

Goodness.  That was such a shock.  I need to lie down for a minute.  Okay, so the mannequin explains that she picked Mr. Simper as the man to craft her body so that her spirit could be set free.  I bet Mr. Simper is really sad that he gets stuck with a dumb old real woman when what he really loves are life-size dolls  he can sing to.  In the excitement, Mr. Simper forgets his hot date with Ms. Thing, which is a shame because she’s wearing her favourite slinky gold coat.

Kim and Mr. Simper lark about the department store talking about the thrill of making window displays.  Nothing against visual merchandisers but if I was an Egyptian Princess whose spirit was finally set free in 1980s New York, I wouldn’t really want to be stuck in a basement helping a creep design the window of an ailing department store. In this scene, we also get to see the birth of Cattrall’s trademark ‘film me from behind as I bare my naked shoulders’ seduction move, later used hundreds of times in Sex and The City.  It never gets old.

The next morning, Kim has returned to being a mannequin and Mr. Simper drives home to talk to his mom about the incidence of insanity in his family.  Now, for a broke sculptor, this guy sure has a swell apartment.

Is that a baby grand?!  Anyway, it turns out the Rent-A-Yuppies are the ones who want to buy the store.  What a twist to the story!  Mr. Simper gets a promotion to visual merchandiser because everybody thinks the windows that he and Kim design overnight are done solely by him!  But that’s okay, look at the outfits Kim gets to wear:

Also in this montage, Kim hears music for the first time and totally freaks out.  I would have too, the song they play is SO BAD.

So time passes and Kim and Mr. Simper work together to make the best window displays New York has ever seen!  They’re successful and, hearing of his new role, Ms. Thing invites Mr. Simper out to lunch to offer him the same job but at her store (the classy one with silver windows).  Mr. Simper turns her down and leaves the restaurant.  He accidentally sets fire to a dessert as he leaves and uses the maitre d’s toupee to snuff it out.  Standard.  Aww, look, it’s a dog with a cold compress on its head!

Back at the ranch, Mr. Simper and Kim are carrying out their icky role-playing fantasies.  This time they’re two people on a cruise ship pretending to sunbathe.  Saucy.  Unbeknownst to them, some sneaky sausages are in the store trying to discover the secret of the marvelous window displays.  Two teams are on the prowl – Ms. Thing and her sleazy boss and JAMES SPADER’s security guard sidekick, Side-Kick Security Guard, who drags the dog (pictured above) around behind him in a red buggy.  After much snooping, Side-Kick Security Guard finally catches Mr. Simper doing the dirty with a mannequin!  How ridiculously gross! “This is how I get my inspiration,” our hero splutters, convincing no one.  There is then a punch up between Side-Kick Security Guard and Mr. Simper, who is helped invisibly by Kim.  For his actions Mr. Simper is made vice president of the company and JAMES SPADER and Side-Kick Security Guard are fired.

But DUN DUN DUN, the head Rent-A-Yuppie is given a photo of Mr. Simper getting biblical with Kim in mannequin form, taken by his cronies.  Ms Thing tries to stop her evil boss from using the pictures against her ex – a moment of redemption – but he ignores her and sets to ruining the reputation of New York’s hottest window display artiste.  Back at Mr. Simper’s store, everyone is turning a blind eye to the fact he keeps marching into the women’s toilets with a mannequin under his arm. “Err the men’s are broken,” he explains. “Of course dear, whatever you say”.

In one such rendez-vouz, Kim breaks it to Mr. Simper that no matter how much they love each other, she will always be a mannequin that comes alive at sunset.  Her human form can’t be seen by anyone but him, while he has a glittering career in front of him and his human form can be seen by practically everyone.  They smooch but then Hollywood Montrose walks in, interrupting them and turning Kim back into a mannequin.  “You know I would never bother you when you’re getting a piece of wood (ick) but I need your help to keep my job.”  Mr. Simper turns Hollywood down so he starts crying.

The evil Rent-A-Yuppies try to kidnap Kim.  Luckily, our kooky pair escape and celebrate by having sex for the first time in a camping-inspired role play setting. However, while Mr. Simper is having a post-coitial sleep, JAMES SPADER and Side-Kick Security Guard manage to grab Kim and steal away with her into the night.  Hollywood comes to the rescue, driving Mr. Simper to the classy department store in his pink convertible with a number plate that reads:

A high speed chase through the store ensues; it’s a race against time before Ms Thing throws Kim into the chopper! – her “Oh, so she was evil all along” moment.  Luckily, and totally unpredictably, Mr. Simper saves Kim right at the last minute and the fact that her life has been saved by another person means that she’s now 100% real!  How completely awesome!  That makes total logical sense!

Aww, look, it’s a goofy cleaner being moved by love:

So moved, in fact, that he tries to find his own mannequin, thus ensuring that although one doll fanatic may be gone, there is another to take his place.  And thus balance is restored.

The film ends with the happy couple’s wedding, which takes place in the store window. Of course.  Hollywood catches the bouquet and cries.  Of course.


Images: All screen grabbed from my own DVD (YES OK I OWN A COPY OF THIS FILM)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lamsicle Liam Jordan

    Star wipe. In the world of fades you can never beat a star wipe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=738574408 Heather Andrews Heisig

    Okay, let me just say that this was THE movie of my youth – I watched it relentlessly, my best friend’s brother was an extra in it, I obsessed over it! And then, one day when I was all grown up, I re-watched it…what were my parents thinking letting me obsess over THIS?!?!?!? However, it still rocks. Thanks for the memories

  • http://www.facebook.com/LelandStrott Leland Strott

    This movie is my absolute FAVORITE :) Thank you so much for sharing it so everyone else can appreciate it. I mean, the fashions! The characters! The suspense! It’s an amazing movie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chickenwing84 Becky Spaulding

    THIS is the best (well, only, but still) breakdown of Mannequin that I’ve ever read. You had me giggling so much. I’m glad I’m not the only one that grew up to find this movie miiiighty creepy. Tragic love story of man and his carved piece of wood!
    Also, I gotta go with the multiple circle fade, that’s definitely one that makes you pay attention.

    I hope you are aware of the fantastic sequel from 1991, “Mannequin 2: On The Move.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102395/) :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=666156634 Nurul Akma Mohd Jamal

    ha. i totes remember this movie and must have watched it a million times back then 😀

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002243315879 Alyssa Sanchez

    This movie is the absolute best! I was introduced to this movie by my big sister who is just as obsessed with movies as I am :) and I LOVED it. Too bad whenever I make reference to it or mention it people my age have no idea what I am talking about! So I usually just find myself talking to my teachers about it lol!

  • http://www.facebook.com/NefariousNewt Nefarious Newt

    I am glad to see I am not the only one with a soft spot for this movie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/colleen.m.pinto Colleen McPhee Pinto

    I wonder why movies like this aren’t made anymore. How about we do a re-make of Mannequin instead of Dirty Dancing? The world needs more Mannequin in it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=207802333 Noelle Imhof

    Ha, I remember this movie as well as the sequal manniquin 2!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenn2marie Jenn Marie

    I SO LOVE this movie! I watch it whenever I can… There’s a special place in my heart for “Mannequin.” When if first came to VHS, my mom bought it for me and we would watch it together all the time. After watching it the first time she turned to me and said (insert Filipino accent) “ohhh… hee ees a KYOOT boi” (speaking, of course, of Andrew McCarthy) My mom had never said that about ANY male actor (that I’m aware of) that she’s ever watched…
    Awww my Mom had a crush on Andrew McCarthy… and so did I but I didn’t think it was weird… i thought it was KYOOT! :) *giggle*

  • http://www.facebook.com/kcosby24 Kelly Cosby

    This was probably the best review ever written of the movie. And it’s a perfect film to end a Saturday Lifetime movie marathon, just FYI.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spacedaisie Jamie Aitchison

    Fun fact! The actress who played Ms. Thing was in an ep of Sex in the City. She was the “Euro trash” who introduced Carrie to the man who gave her money after their tryst.

    • http://www.facebook.com/elizabethsankey Elizabeth Sankey

      No waaaaaay! I wonder if her and Kim bonded off set. wow she aged well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.lynn.cook Ashley Lynn Cook

    I LOVED this movie growing up! As a matter of fact I watched it a couple of days ago! 😀 Excellent timing with the article. Long live the 80’s movie! <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/SeasideTV Linda Seide

    I loved this movie when it came out, but your “review,” shall we call it, had me giggling like never before. As a mature adult now, I wonder why I liked Mannequin as a young woman. The premise is so totally outrageous! On a side note, if you ever want to write movie reviews (or tv, books, music), get in touch with me. I own a website, YourEntertainmentCorner.com, and we’re always looking for volunteer writers (and editors). Thanks for giving me my laugh of the day!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cristinamoreno Cristina Moreno

    This movie inspired me to ruin my brother’s childhood. I convinced him that all mannequins were real people at one point and that going into the fitting rooms made them transform. He’s still bitter.

    • http://www.facebook.com/elizabethsankey Elizabeth Sankey

      Ok someone give this girl a prize

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347864057 Cija A. Jefferson

    First off, when I saw the title I was instantly transported back to my childhood when this movie seemed so awesome! I hadn’t thought about Mannequin in ages, so your blow-by-blow with commentary had me hee-hawing in my cubicle…love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ooojojojo Cristina Jiménez

    Last weekend I watched AirDoll, remind me this film. ^_^ Is she Samantha from Sex and the City?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stharp1 Sarah Breneman Tharp

    I too watched this movie repeatedly when I was young and LOVED it! I saw that it was going to be on tv sometime recently and was so excited to re-live one of my favorite shows! However, it didn’t take long for me to get quite creeped out!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=635602758 Jessica Bauer

    I actually like the circles fade above. It reminds me of Pinkberry on Melrose and the green circles they have on their store window. It was my first Pinkberry experience (and a good one, at that) so the green circles have a positivity with me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/elizabethsankey Elizabeth Sankey

      ok I live in London so I don’t know what pinkberry is, but I am with you on the circle fade.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karataylorr Kara Tumminello

    I appreciate all the time & screencapping that went into this, but I’m mildly offended that you skimmed over the best hybrid dance/dress-up montage of all time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/elizabethsankey Elizabeth Sankey

      If you want me to I will spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you <3

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