A department store assistant (William Ragsdale) falls in love with a store mannequin (Kristy Swanson) who is actually a cursed 1000-year-old peasant girl whose necklace inanimately freezes whoever it is placed upon.
Promotional trailers include: Zombie: Nightmare II Boardgame commercial, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, City Slickers, Earth Angel, Oscar and Warner Bros. Movieworld commercial.
The fish-out-of-water romantic comedy was a brief wave that swept through Hollywood after the success of 1982’s gender swapping Tootsie and again in 1984’s mermaid meets New York yuppy romcom Splash. Both films’ commercial and critical success induced a spate of films that adhered to the simple and formulaic narrative structure of the FOOW romcom to optimistically capture box-office lightning twice.
On paper, it is quite simple; a story revolving around a character placed in an unfamiliar and unknown setting left to ‘hilariously’ work it out for themselves, often romantically motivated ‘ordinary’ love interest against an antagonist who bares a heart of stone. The optimistic nature of the fish-out-of-water comedies is what audiences pay to see; the clash of two different worlds and the literal experimentation of the age-old term ‘opposites attract’. The second half of the eighties saw an American journalist fall for an Australian crocodile poacher in Crocodile Dundee (1986), the critically-panned My Stepmother Is An Alien (1988) where a beautiful alien meets an Earthbound scientist and Mannequin (1987), about an artist who falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life in the form of an ancient Egyptian princess. The latter film became better known for Kim Cattrall and its use of Starships 1986 rock-ballad anthem ‘Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now. While it is a cutesy little eighties romcom, the cheese is packed on and that didn’t stop it from getting a sequel the next decade.
Mannequin 2 is not a direct sequel. It is practically the same film recasted, reshot and remade incorporating more stupidisms audiences expect to see from standard direct to video sequels. Quite simply, the film suffers a fatal dose of ‘sequel fever’. The film opens in the kingdom of Hauptmann-Koenig where Prince William (William Ragsdale) plans to wed his peasant girlfriend Jessie (Kristy Swanson). Prince William’s own parents disapprove and the parents permit evil sorcerer (Jerry Kiser)to trick the Prince into putting a necklace on Jessie, which turns her into an inanimate; frozen dummy. The only way to break the curse is if a Prince finds Jessie, takes the necklace off and breaks her curse.
1000 years later, Jessie has become the famed ‘Enchanted Peasant Girl’ and is set to appear at Prince & Company a department stores’s upcoming seasonal window display that is set to honor Hauptmann-Koenig. Prince William, now named Jason, is hired to work under the cool shades and acute sass of window dresser and full-time fierce bitch Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor, the only original actor to reprise a role in the sequel). So begins a romance when unlucky-in-love Jason unclips Jessie’s necklace bringing her to life to marvel in the colourful and cynical commercial world of the ’90’s, where stereotypes are even more etched out than that of fairytales. As expected as a direct-to-video sequel, that famous Starship song is slapped onto the closing scene and everyone lives happily ever after.
It’s no surprise the film is clunky and let’s be honest, it knows it’s not aiming to please critics, it’s aiming straight to the hearts of its fun-loving audience. While it is on the weaker side, its ridiculousness keeps the film from becoming disengaging. The sequel does contain some loveable charms. The biggest of these is the flamboyant RuPaul-before-RuPaul, window stylist Hollywood Montrose. Meschach Taylor’s Hollywood discards the film’s re-hashed love story and completely steals the film (as he did in the first) by making it all about him. And that is the saving grace of this sequel.
William Ragsdale and Kristy Swanson are stuck in that transitional ’80s-to-’90s mode of style, like many other comedic films released during this time, but manage to have onscreen chemistry together and, well let’s be honest, they are a good looking couple both giving likeable performances knowing there isn’t much to play with in the film’s script pages. Jerry Kiser as the sorcerer/descendant of the Count is a great antagonist that derives his character from fairytale pantomimes as opposed to the baddies of standard Hollywood slapstick fanfare. Cynthia Harris as Jason’s mother who runs a video dating service adds a little bit of ditzy ’90’s charm that gives the a viewing of the film today, a fun throwback. The film’s blindly optimistic (and juvenile) stance on love and romance is a reflection of the notions and romanticisms of that continue to exist within the core of most Hollywood romcoms and within the hearts of the audience. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s age-old. How we seem 1000 years away from that today, in the digital swipe-left-right Western dating culture of today.
The film is a standard direct-to-video sequel that is silly but relishes in its silliness and doesn’t for a minute try to be anything other than fun. One erk was the fact the princess is called ‘Jessie’ a millennia ago. Probably Jessica, I know, it’s shortened. But this is a great example of the clunkiness of the film’s script and the nature of the films light-hearted intent. Mannequin 2 does have moments that give you a chuckle but altogether fall flat amidst its inclusion of other shallow and stupid characters. The film is like a pantomime that has come to life, using that classic fairytale good vs. bad narrative in a way that makes it seem like its aimed at an audience younger (children) than what it is actually aimed at (adults). Upon revisitation, it has dated more than other fish-out-of-water comedies in its league. But, body guards in lycra really does say it all.
Overall Mannequin 2: On The Move is a standard direct-to-video sequel, one that lazily rehashed a standard formula sending up the fairytale romance in a (what was contemporary) nineties world. While it is cheesy, it is still stupidly enjoyable and its own optimism is an example of what makes fish-out-of-water comedies fun, often uplifting and consistently entertaining. If only more of them wouldn’t be so inanimate in today’s cinematic landscape.