Can’t Stop the Music
June 28, 2010
For those not in the know, The Village People are a concept disco collective, formed in America. The brains of the outfit, Jacques Morali, was responsible for penning the tunes and formed the band after placing an ad in a music magazine which read ‘must dance and have a moustache’. The band grew into a phenomenon, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried to cash in on their fame by putting them in a film.
Can’t Stop The Music is an ersatz autobiography of the band, charting their formation in New York’s Greenwich Village to a final, climactically fruity concert at San Francisco. A fresh faced, snake-hipped Steve Guttenberg plays Jack Morell (a thinly disguised Morali) who, after quitting his day job working in a record shop, decides to become a composer. A ten minute roller skating jaunt through New York set to a sickeningly optimistic disco tune later, he meets his landlady (Valerie Perrine) who happens to be an ex-supermodel with lots of contacts in the record business. After recruiting the Native American village person (Felipe Rose), the other members of the band join one by one and their place in disco folklore is assured.
Before we lose ourselves in its sanguine four-on-the-floor beats and relentless Eighties-ness, let’s get one thing straight: in a lot of respects, this movie stinks. The dialogue is terrible, the acting shonky and you could drive a bus through the holes in the plot.
However, I’m prepared to give this film a pass. If you can put your brain in neutral and disengage your critical faculties, it’s actually quite fun. There are a lot of memorable things that stick in the mind long after the film is finished. In every scene where Guttenberg is composing or arranging the band, he puts you in mind of Steve Martin in The Jerk, who has a crippling inability to clap in time to a beat. Leatherman (Glenn Hughes), with a ‘tache that would put Merv the Swerve to shame, gives a memorable rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ atop a grand piano, and there is a mindbending milk commercial that has to be seen to be believed. The music throughout the film is quite catchy, even though the lyrics were seemingly written by someone without English as a first language.
Special mention must be made of the rendition of the band’s biggest hit, YMCA. Filmed in an actual hostel, there’s stylised boxing, diving, gymnastics and cheeky male shower scenes galore, and more naked male flesh on display than is healthy for one person. It’s the gayest thing since Carry On Fisting (a film Sid James refused to talk about until his dying day), and it’s enough to turn Burt Reynolds ginger beer.
All in all, it’s a so-bad-it’s-watchable film. Not Star Wars Holiday Special bad, but Mystery Science Theatre 3000 bad, which makes it okay in my book.