Sometimes talented filmmakers can pep up even the most hackneyed material with an infusion of energy and talent. In MANNEQUIN TWO, the high-spirited combination of cast, screenwriter and director packs the collective punch of a year's supply of No-Doz.
In the film's fast-paced prologue, Prince William (William Ragsdale) is separated from his true love, a beautiful peasant maid named Jessie (Kristy Swanson). Placing a curse on an enchanted necklace, the evil Queen (Cynthia Harris) and her sorcerer (Terry Kiser) put one thousand years' distance
between the royal prince and his penniless fiancee. Sweeping ahead to modern-day Philadelphia, a young man, Jason Williamson--the reincarnation of Prince William--starts his first day of work at a swank department store presided over by dictatorial manager Mr. James (Stuart Pankin).
More uptight than usual, Mr. James prepares for a lavish store gala involving a touring art-and-jewelry exhibit from the quaint land of Hauptman-Koenig; he frets that his visual display whiz, Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor) will drench his conservative interiors with an excess of Vegas glitz
and insult the visiting foreigners. What neither Mr. James nor Jason Williamson nor Hollywood Montrose realizes is that Count Spretzle (Kiser again), who's engineered the traveling exhibition, is actually the masterful sorcerer who has been waiting 1,000 years to sneak out of his dreary kingdom
with the crown jewels and retire with the bewitched Jessie to a tropical island.
After rescuing Jessie, whom he mistakes for an ordinary mannequin, from an accident that pitches her into a river, Jason is placed in charge of her care at the store. He promptly removes her magic necklace and freaks out when she comes to life. Flanked by three bungling musclemen assistants,
Count Spretzle decides to eliminate this lowly display assistant who was presumptuous enough to revive the sleeping beauty he has designs on. In between moments when she reverts to statue form, Jessie and Jason reignite the embers of their thousand-years-old love.
After the duo nearly wreck the store in their search for freedom, Jessie reverts to statue form in time for the posh department store extravaganza. In front of the audience, Jason reawakens Jessie with a kiss, but the nefarious Count shoots Mr. James and escapes with Jessie in a hot air balloon
from the roof of the store. Thwarting his plans with princely derring-do, Jason rescues his beloved and transforms Count Spretzle into a dummy. True love conquers all.
Whether it's PRETTY WOMAN or ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, audiences never tire of fairy tales done up in modern dress. Be it Snow White surrounded by dwarves or a mannequin protected by stooges on steroids, moviegoers adore the fable of a maiden coming to life through the love of Mr. Right. In a world
where romantics assuage loneliness through computer dating, MANNEQUIN TWO strikes the right combination of sweet-natured romance and freewheeling farce and populates its comic-opera universe with hilarious characters that make this topsy-turvy escapism easy to embrace.
Who can resist Terry Kiser, who seems to have overdosed on Sigmund Romberg operettas, as the Count-you-love-to-hate? Who can help but laugh at his inept cohorts, a re-envisioning of the Three Stooges as Arnold Schwarzenegger-style weightlifters who screw up every task and emerge as mountains of
stupidity. Best of all is the revamping of the traditional fairy godmother as a gutsy, campy visual artiste whom Meshach Taylor makes effeminate without being offensive.
Although it lacks major Hollywood stars and doesn't possess a big budget, MANNEQUIN TWO can be enjoyed as an example of commercial filmmaking at its simplest and most liberatingly enjoyable. No over-production and no over-elaboration here. Instead, it brings its formula sleeping-beauty plot to
life by presenting it as if everyone onscreen truly believed the legend being enacted were a reality. For the cast to bring conviction to such a fantastic premise is accomplishment enough; but to succeed in making the audience suspend its disbelief is its greatest achievement. The secret of
romantic farce is keep a straight face and never to pause to take a breath. Otherwise the viewer nitpicks at all the implausibilities and incongruities. MANNEQUIN TWO is breathlessly funny and blessedly unassuming comedic nonsense. (Mild violence.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG
- Review: Sometimes talented filmmakers can pep up even the most hackneyed material with an infusion of energy and talent. In MANNEQUIN TWO, the high-spirited combination of cast, screenwriter and director packs the collective punch of a year's supply of No-Doz. I… (more)