I'll spare you the plot description as it's found on many semi-pro reviews here and is already well-known. Instead, I'll tell you about my own experience and how I see Xanadu myself. I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit I really love this movie. Always have, always will. I'm just glad that for the past 30 years I was able to keep cynicism out of my life and watch it again (by chance) with pretty much the same eyes and spirit I did back in the day when I was only 11.
Like many here I saw Xanadu when it was released, which happened in 1981 here where I live. Me and some friends had set out to watch Clash Of Titans, another blockbuster-to-be of the time. A "boys movie". Instead we ended up watching Xanadu.
A musical? Come on!!! For a gang of kids entering teen-hood?? Give us the swords and monsters and the killing, who cares about girls on roller skates and dance clubs! But
We were there already, so we watched it.
What a pleasant accident!
The roller-skating craze was in full swing and ONJ was a walking dream, pure ear and eye candy. I was so much into roller skating that I used to sleep wearing mines so my bros wouldn't take it from me to ride. I wore them all the time, even going to school. That alone granted me the nickname Xanadu, which I confess made me proud (c'mon I was 10 - LOL) because spoke about my ability on wheels. Eventually I got into roller skating big time, then ice hockey, in-line skating and all forms of skating, thanks in large part to this flick. I still skate a lot these days and I love it.
We were young, naive, full of hope. And easy to impress. Xanadu is light-hearted, pure, innocent, romantic. The music was catchy but very harmonic, lifting, exquisite. That's what a 10 year old draws from a movie. Not bad acting or stupid editing. I couldn't care less for big budgets, shallow plots, critic reviews. All I cared for was ONJ voice and angel face, the skating, the neon effects, the fantasy, the dancing. Like any 10 y.o. I wasn't into musicals, but ELO and ONJ are irresistible. The whole vibe of the movie was and still is incredibly upbeat. I've become an ELO fan, I get a lift every time I hear the soundtrack.
I watched Xanadu again this past week on TV and was able to revive the same feelings and find the same joy. It almost made me cry, I admit. I 've read over a 100 reviews and it's clear that everyone, lover or hater, agrees that Xanadu is far from a decently executed movie, technically speaking. Bad direction, silly plot, stiff acting and all... But somehow the sum of all these bad parts result in something magic and special, at least for many of us who lived those times. There are many forms of "good". How good it was to be a teen at the 80's!
I won't wax nostalgic and complain about modern life. I love modern life. But fact is, things have become very formulaic, very studied, overly calculated. Not only in the movies, but in general life. And still, many "great" modern movies don't inspire like Xanadu. Don't last like Xanadu. It's like falling in love at teen-hood: you fall face- planted many times but you'll cherish every moment forever. It's from a different era, you had to be there to understand this and get a real grip on the movie. This "uncompromise", this daring ways, it's all gone and lost but watching Xanadu brings back some of that feeling.
Like most here I appreciate action movies, high-end special effects, a tight story and firm direction, a serious script. So I understand the critics, I really do. I admit, there are equally inspiring movies much better executed from that time. Many, many. But how many movies, better ones included, went to the bin and never raised neither love nor hatred? So it could be worse: it could be indifferent. But it's not. Even in its cinematographic mediocrity, Xanadu is still passionate. It still clicks in its own incredible way. If you watch a movie as a succession of frames, a tight hand at direction, a logical connection of parts (and that's a way of watching movies of course), then Xanadu is not for you. But beware: you won't be indifferent. That's impossible and speaks volumes about its magic.
Thanks for reading and I wish you a good life!