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Guilty Pleasures: Xanadu

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Who can resist a film that spectacularly combines Greek mythology, roller-skating, and Olivia Newton-John? Ostensibly a remake of Rita Hayworth’s 1947 comedy Down to Earth, Xanadu features Newton-John as a muse sent from the heavens by Zeus, apparently to kick-start the leg-warmer revolution. She winds up uniting a struggling artist (Michael Beck) and a washed-up dancer (Gene Kelly) in their dream to launch a gaudy, neon-washed music hall-slash-roller rink. (No, really.) The choreographed-to-the-extreme dance numbers that follow (courtesy of ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne) are just as mesmerizing as the eerie, ethereal glow that Newton-John delivers much of her dialogue bathed in.

Released in 1980, Xanadu straddles two decades of outlandish taste, though not even that can explain its eye-popping disco-meets-deco aesthetic. But unlike other early-’80s attempts to reinvigorate the musical (e.g., Popeye), Xanadu actually has some hummable tunes (the title song makes for killer karaoke) and a refreshingly naive sincerity that can’t be duplicated in this post-ironic age.

Guilt-o-meter: 7

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