Xanadu was Olivia Newton-John's follow-up to the massive hit Grease and was supposed to establish her as a bankable musical film star. It didn't quite happen that way, thanks to Xanadu's poor box-office showing and dreadful critical reception. There's little to recommend in this film, aside from the fact that it can be entertaining if viewed from a camp perspective. Filmed in 1980, Xanadu's production design is unfortunately very period -- all exceptionally ugly and tacky glitz and glitter. The screenplay is utter nonsense, with a plot that the creators obviously didn't believe in and some excruciatingly bad dialogue (which, like the design, is made worse by being faithful to its period). Robert Greenwald's direction is weak, but at least it's not uninspired; he does bring a small amount of life and vitality, however forced, to the proceedings. The score is poor, with some of the worst lyrics ever put on screen, and the choreography is on the level of what one found on late-'70s award programs; the "Dancin'" sequence is especially excruciating. Newton-John's voice is thin but it does have a certain sweetness to it; her acting, however, is atrocious, and Michael Beck's is scarcely better. Gene Kelly acquits himself as best as possible under the circumstances, but he really should have known better.
by Craig Butler review