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Mannequin: On the Move

May 17, 1991

On this day, Craig R. Baxley’s STONE COLD starring Brian Bosworth opened. It’s genuinely one of my favorite movies, which is why I reviewed it in 2005 and then again in 2007 when it first came to DVD and then again in 2015 when One Perfect Shot published my piece Strictly Bozness: The Fiery Majesty of ‘Stone Cold’. And I admit it would’ve been pretty fuckin cool for me to somehow squeeze yet another piece out of it for this series, but I did not. Instead, please read Strictly Bozness and then we’ll move on to another May 17th, 1991 release that is seriously lacking in motorcycle-on-helicopter violence, among many other failings.

I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but it is a fact that the sequel to MANNEQUIN – part two #2 of Summer 1991 – is called MANNEQUIN: ON THE MOVE. There is no number in the title. The video covers have it as MANNEQUIN 2: ON THE MOVE and the theatrical poster says MANNEQUIN TWO: ON THE MOVE (important for “on the move” to be underlined) and I’m a fan of sequels that spell out their numbering, but I try to stick to on screen titles only. So really the MANNEQUIN franchise saga of properties understood it was the ‘90s and that pretty soon it would be in vogue to drop the numbers and just use subtitles (HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE, ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, etc.)

It’s not like a road trip or chase movie or anything, it’s more of a rehash but, do you get it though? It’s ON THE MOVE because mannequins normally don’t move but this one moves so it’s on the move. That’s why it’s a good title.

Note: I did watch the first MANNEQUIN (1987) in preparation for this, did not feel I had a full review’s worth of thoughts on it, and had almost completely forgotten it a week later when I watched this. So forgive me if I mix up any of the Mannequinverse mythos.

The first film starred Andrew McCarthy as Jonathan, who worked at a mannequin factory and then a ritzy Philadelphia department store called Prince & Company, where his very favorite mannequin resides, and he sets up window displays that somehow attract giant crowds and inspire people to say stuff like “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” It is really not clear what the fuck any of these people are so excited about – I guess you had to be there. But a woman in ancient Egypt (Kim Cattrall) prayed to the gods to avoid an arranged marriage and now she comes to life in the form of this mannequin to fall in love with Jonathan. But it’s TOY STORY rules so if anyone else sees her she becomes a mannequin again, and he looks like a nut driving around with her.

Part ON THE MOVE has the same department store but an entirely new window dresser and an entirely new magical possessed love mannequin. This time it starts in Germany near a fairy tale type castle (a matte painting and some park somewhere) where peasant girl Jessie (Kristy Swanson, MR. BOOGEDY) is not allowed to marry Prince William (William Ragsdale from FRIGHT NIGHT and FRIGHT NIGHT PART II) and an evil sorcerer (Terry Kiser, SURF II, WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S) curses her with a magic necklace that freezes her (turns her into a mannequin) for a thousand years.

In the ‘90s the castle still exists as a tourist attraction, and the mannequin is on display as the legendary “Enchanted Peasant Girl” that nobody knows if it’s true or not but it’s a national treasure anyway. For some reason they send it to be displayed at Prince & Company – maybe they could’ve explained it as a response to a mannequin coming to life there in the past, but they don’t bother.

Also for some reason there’s a lookalike descendent of the sorcerer named Count Spretzle (I thought this was a bad joke naming him after a German food, but I was thinking of spaetzle) who knows the legend is real and that the mannequin will awaken when the thousand years ends and thinks if he’s there she will fall in love with him and I mean why not I guess, so he’s going around doing schemes that are supposed to be funny because Kiser does little bits like crumpling up a piece of paper and putting it in his mouth.

And then Ragsdale plays another character named Jason Williamson, who it is later specified is a descendent of Prince William and also his reincarnation. I think you’re supposed to like him, but he’s such a square that he lives in Philadelphia and has a poster in his bedroom that says “Philadelphia.” He takes a new job at Prince & Company and is assigned to work with Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor, DAMIEN: OMEN II, EXPLORERS), the flamboyant gay window display designer who was the most memorable character in the first film. His hair and clothes have moved on to the early ‘90s, with some African-inspired prints, and he wears scissor-themed sunglasses and earrings. Through convolution and coincidence the two of them happen to witness the delivery truck dumping the mannequin off a bridge, and Jason thinks it’s a person and dives in and does see Kristy Swanson for a second before carrying the mannequin to the surface.

So of course while Jason is on the job Jessie starts to come to life and he takes her out to a club (she shows him some medieval dance) and teaches her about cheesesteaks (I thought it was the same place from CREED but I was wrong). It’s kind of the ENCHANTED joke where she doesn’t understand modern living and is impressed or confused by everything. He brings her home and there’s a musical montage where he happily makes a repulsive breakfast (I guess the joke is that he doesn’t know that he has no idea how food is prepared?) and she takes a bubble bath. The magic rules are different in this one, so other people see her as a normal human, but then she accidentally puts the necklace on and is frozen again and he freaks out and his mom (Cynthia Harris, THREE MEN AND A BABY) walks in and thinks he’s humping a mannequin. She’s a matchmaker by trade, so it must be extra upsetting that her son has settled for merchandise stolen from work rather than seeking a human.

I’m not saying there’s anything actually funny in this movie, but one of the more painfully unfunny aspects is the three dumb musclemen Rolf (John Edmondson), Egon (Phil Latella) and Arnold (Mark Gray) who act as official security for the mannequin. Their cartoonish accents suggest guys who vaguely remember a Hans & Franz sketch and try to repurpose it for a company picnic. FX2 had the accented cyborg in the opening scene, and now here’s another part 2 (or part ON THE MOVE) that seems to reference Schwarzenegger during the summer of T2.

Hollywood (the character, not the industry town) is preparing a show that will celebrate the history of the Enchanted Peasant Girl or whatever, and his asshole boss (Stuart Pankin, SCAVENGER HUNT) wants to make sure there’s “no racy stuff” in the show (see also MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE). Count Spretzel struts around acting important, and one of the big jokes is that he has a gross wart on his cheek with a long piece of hair hanging out of it. And I guess maybe the one arguably funny part is when Hollywood suggests putting African beads on it “a la Bo Derek.”

Hollywood’s other antics include wearing a Marines uniform in a scheme to get Jason out of jail. Also Taylor puts on a dreadlock wig and Africa medallion to play a second character, a very heterosexual doorman at the club. It’s like DR. STRANGELOVE, really. And then there’s a hot air balloon so it’s also like POLICE ACADEMY 4.

The Count tries to shoot Jason with a crossbow. Also he throws a potted plant over a ledge and nails him right in the ass – I don’t know if that counts as a joke, but I did laugh. There’s a subplot about a TV show taping at the store, and the show is called Teenarama Philadelphia. There’s a “Go ahead, make my day” just like so many of the movies I wrote about from the Summer of 1985. Jesus christ man, time to find a new reference. There is, as in most movies, a “trying on different outfits” montage.

One of the few bits of continuity is that when Jason tells Hollywood about the mannequin coming to life, he believes him. An earlier scene where he says “Believe me, stranger things have happened” sort of acts as the “how can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” of this franchise. Also they bring back the minor character of Prince & Company janitor Andy (Andrew Hill Newman, MANIAC COP 2) and re-use Starship’s Oscar-nominated theme song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” for the end credits.

ON THE MOVE was so bottom-of-the-barrel even for its time that it’s hard to hold it out as representative of the era. But it’s more offensive for its general suckiness than dated attitudes anyway. Hollywood is certainly a stereotype being portrayed by a straight performer, and would not cut it today, but for the time the character was a pretty positive portrayal. In part 1 the villain is called a “bigoted jerk” for his treatment of him, and both films’ straight male protagonists are completely comfortable being friends with him, setting a good example for straight men of the time. It doesn’t hurt that those lead characters are so milquetoast that pretty much anyone watching the movies comes away caring more about Hollywood. The same goes for the mannequin leads – whatever can be read into them about literal and figurative objectification of women, the ladies are much more fun than the men in these movies. Swanson is no Cattrall, but her performance is likable enough to make the movie slightly less unwatchable.

The script is credited to part one’s writers Edward Rugoff and David Isaacs & Ken Levine plus newcomer Betsy Israel (no other credits). It’s directed by Stewart Raffill, the animal supervisor turned filmmaker who wrote Disney’s NAPOLEON AND SAMANTHA and directed THE ADVENTURES OF THE WILDERNESS FAMILY. His three films before this were THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (1984), THE ICE PIRATES (also 1984) and MAC AND ME (1988), so that’s quite a run there.

MANNEQUIN: ON THE MOVE opened #8 at the box office, three slots below STONE COLD and one below SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in its 14th week. It did not catch on like the first one, and went on to gross less than a third of its $13 million budget. To be fair, the TV movie KNIGHT RIDER 2000 aired that Sunday, so there was alot of competition. (If I had been able to get ahold of that I would’ve done a review. It took place in the futuristic year of 2000 and had a new [not as good] theme song by Jan Hammer. Edwin Neal, the hitchhiker from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, plays “Warehouse Clerk”!)

Despite ON THE MOVE’s infamy, Swanson’s career sort of picked up a little – she followed this with HOT SHOTS! and HIGHWAY TO HELL the same year, then BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992), THE PROGRAM (1993) and THE CHASE (1994). My favorite movie with her is, of course, THE PHANTOM (1996). She still occasionally acts in TV movies, but mostly pursues her true passion of heiling Donald Trump and spewing idiotic conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Ragsdale’s career also survived, because at the same time he was starting the Fox sitcom Herman’s Head, in which he played Herman, the guy who owned the titular head. Other notable credits include ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL and Justified (he played Gary Hawkins, Winona’s real estate agent ex-husband who ends up in debt to the Dixie Mafia).

Director Raffill’s followup as screenwriter was the hit PASSENGER 57 (1992), but his next work as director was TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994). His most recent, likely last film is STANDING OVATION (2010), a musical about a middle school singing group. Co-writer Rugoff followed up with MR. NANNY (1993), while Isaacs and Levine wrote for shows like Wings, Cheers, Frasier and Becker. Surprisingly Levine also has credits on two early Simpsons episodes, “Dancin’ Homer” and “Saturdays of Thunder.”

The department store, which was called Wanamaker’s in real life, is now a Macy’s and a National Historic Landmark. One of the Emmy mannequins from the first film is on display in another Philly shop called South Fellini, but the whereabouts of ON THE MOVE’s Jessie mannequins remain unclear.


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9 Responses to “Mannequin: On the Move”

  1. Man, it’s bad enough when I learn (all the time, it seems like) that one of my musical icons is a shit. Turns out it may be worse when I discover one of my youthful screen crushes is one too. Damn.

  2. I am confused. Because a.) What the hell is a Spretzel? And b.) I was always under the impression that I watched part 2 a few times on TV as a kid, but never saw part 1. As it turns out, I actually saw part 1, but never saw part 2!

  3. Johnny – Sorry.

    CJ – My mistake, I was thinking of spaetzle.

  4. I did not realize the Mannequin Cinematic Universe was centered in the town of my birth, Philadelphia. Nor did I know that Mannequin 2 is from the director of Mac & Me, a movie I non-ironically (and also ironically) love. So now I’ve got to watch this.

    Knight Rider 2000 was on TV here the other day on some substation called Charge TV that mostly shows Magnum P.I., Walker Texas Ranger, and Dolph Lundgren movies. KITT was red and Mitch Pileggi was in it, and that’s all I noticed. Apparently Charge streams for free on some app/site called Stirr, so is bound to come back around in rotation. Personally I’d prefer they show the Hasselhoff Nick Fury movie.

  5. Daniel Strange

    May 17th, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Just commenting on this review of MANNEQUIN: _ON THE MOVE_ to say that I really liked Knight Rider 2000 when it was broadcast. I thought it was decently fun for a pilot, that it got the basics right — bring back Michael, bring back William Daniels as the voice of KITT, 90% of the work is done — and I was tickled that it was set in the future but without any explanation of why Michael Knight hadn’t aged, because who cares? It’s Knight Rider. The End.

  6. Being a fellow Washingtonian, I can only wonder if Vern also faced the threat of physical harm for touting the greatness of Stone Cold in the ’90s. It was a dark & dangerous time, my friends, when any utterance of “The Boz” could have sudden and dire consequences.

  7. Mannequin was one of my favorite movies as a kid and I was in love with Kim Cattrall. By 1991 I didn’t bother to see 2mann2quin. I don’t think I’d outgrown it so much as I didn’t care about a different mannequin, although I should have for Kristy Swanson (The Chase is my fav of hers).

    I finally saw this when they released it on Blu-Ray. Such an odd choice to change the rules. It’s like making Bernie a voodoo zombie in Weekend at Bernie’s 2. It totally violates the artistic integrity of the whole franchise. #notmyBernie #notmyMannequin

  8. I actually had Spätzle yesterday…

  9. You’re probably in your twenties right, yes mannequin 2 maybe cheesy but it’s a cult classic and is cannon to the original, still holds up in my opinion….

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