I’m not a big fan of musicals in general, but I sort of tolerate them as a thing that exists. My wife on the other hand specifically dislikes them, so much so that we went to a screening of Into the Woods and she was surprised and annoyed when people started to sing. I knew it was a musical and that movie was hot garbage.
But this article isn’t about Into the Woods. It’s about disco. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again hits theaters this week, so on the docket this week is the semi-biographical Can’t Stop the Music which shows the fictional account of how the Village People came to be. It’s the story you never thought you wanted and, truly, it’s the story no one really needed.
Part of the problem with this godawful musical is that it has trouble focusing its attention on anything in particular. The movie starts off seeming to be about Steve Guttenberg’s character trying to make it as a DJ in the waning disco scene of New York’s Greenwich Village. Hey, I just realized why they called them “The Village People”! Anyway, Guttenberg is strangely used here; for a guy that’s from Brooklyn, the Gute comes off as terribly white bread and doesn’t really gel in the eccentric, gay-friendly neighborhood the movie depicts. Not to say that his character is homophobic, but in a movie where most characters where their sexuality on their sleeves, it’s an odd choice to have a guy that, save for a fleeting moment with lead Valerie Perrine, comes off as extremely asexual.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter anyway, because the movie spends a lot of time focusing on Valerie Perrine’s character, which is even weirder when considering this is supposed to be a Village People movie. She’s sort of like Sandra Bullock’s character in The Blind Side if she had to teach a novelty group how to go platinum three times between 1978 and 1979. The Village People should be the draw here, not the chick that played Lex Luthor’s floozy in two movies.
But alas, Perrine’s Samantha character is the main focus, as she becomes the brains behind the whole operation. She tells Guttenberg that he can’t sing worth a damn, so she recruits the Village People, much in the same way Yul Brynner recruits his Magnificent Seven, in order to sing the songs that Guttenberg initially wrote. Along the way, we have to endure some sub-plot about Samantha retiring from being a model (with no plan to find further employment), her former employer trying to bring her back, and Ron, a lawyer from St. Louis that falls in love with Samantha, played by Caitlyn Jenner.
This semblance of a plot is all built around a few set pieces that showcase some songs of varying levels of quality. We get a song about milkshakes, loving someone to death, a magic night, and of course, the YMCA. Unfortunately, for the casual viewer with only a fleeting knowledge of the Village People, “YMCA” will be the only song that is recognizable. For added fun, during this musical moment, the viewer is treated to not one, but two dicks. I probably shouldn’t have been shocked by this, but this movie was also rated PG, so I stand by my surprise.
This movie is not good in the most basic sense of things. If it focused on the Village People, I could’ve gotten behind it, but they’re treated like a footnote in their own movie. Who gives a shit about Valerie Perrine falling in love? Who cares about her coming out of retirement to shoot a milk commercial? Who fucking cares? If you’re gonna do a Village People movie, just do a goddamn Village People movie. As bad as Spice World or From Justin to Kelly were, no one ever accused those movies of pushing their subjects to the background.
This movie takes a possibly interesting subject of The Village People and focuses on the wrong people. But to be honest, the Village People was a manufactured group, so their story isn’t even that interesting to begin with. And while the gay-friendly attitude of the film is refreshing (and quite honest, would make a modern audience uncomfortable), it’s all told from the focus of Samantha’s personal life, who in a movie filled with gays and minorities, couldn’t help but be lily white and straight. Snooze.