While the soundtrack is evenly split between Newton-John ballads and power-pop from ELO, neither of which sounded particularly revolutionary at the turn of the decade, Xanadu's collage of musical styles and fads inadvertently suggests the utopia of post-disco no wave, hip-hop's emerging legacy of sampling and the DIY spirit of mash-ups. (I mean, if you want to be kind.)
Like "The Wiz," though, Xanadu is desperately stylish without having any real style. A dance number featuring two teams of dancers -one group dressed as punks, the other in 1940's garb - winds up a terrible mess, because the two groups aren't dressed or choreographed to have anything to do with one another.
Xanadu cannot possibly be described as a good movie, but it can be recommended to those who can tolerate large amounts of intravenous marzipan. The music is highly enjoyable -- though perhaps more so once one gets the record album home and isn't bothered with the story -- and the film so unerringly airy that it has a beneficent, tranquilizing, bemusing effect.
Xanadu is truly a stupendously bad film whose only salvage is the music.
Rick GroenThe Globe and Mail (Toronto)
An actual film of unrelenting silliness. Far from being a "miracle of rare device" (yes, the movie even quotes Coleridge), this is a disaster of common occurrence - a poorly directed, ineptly edited, badly photographed bundle of celluloid. [14 Aug 1980]
Michael Beck (of "The Warriors") shows no discernible talent for musical romanticism Olivia ("Totally Hot") Newton-John sings prettily but is totally tepid, and the ever graceful Gene Kelly deserves a medal for keeping a straight face. Robert Greenwald, the director, should look into another line of work. Perhaps opening a disco? [18 Aug 1980, p.85]