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Film Review: "Can't Stop the Music" (1980)

Film reviews from across the cinematic landscape. Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.


Film Background

In 1980, Nancy Walker released Can’t Stop the Music, as a pseudo-biography of The Village People. Starring Steve Guttenberg, Valerie Perrine, Caitlyn Jenner, Paul Sand, Tammy Grimes, Alex Briley, David Hodo, Glenn Hughes, Randy Jones, Felipe Rose, Ray Simpson, June Havoc, Barbara Rush, Altovise Davis, Marilyn Sokol, Russell Nype, Jack Weston, Leigh Taylor-Young, and Dick Patterson, the film had a $20 million budget and grossed $2 million. “Winner” of the first ever Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay, the film was also nominated for Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actress, Worst Director, and Worst Original Song, as well as the Young Artist Award for Best Family Music Album.

Film Synopsis

When songwriter Jack Morell gets a break as a DJ at a local disco, his supermodel roommate agrees to use her connections to get him a record deal. She then recruits her go-go boy waiter neighbor, a fellow model with dreams of stardom and a random cowboy off the streets of Greenwich Village to participate in putting the music together. Soon after, they’re joined by three others and the Village People are born.



Can’t Stop the Music is not only an unbearably bad film, but it’s also practically unwatchable. The basic concept of the film, which is a semi-autobiographical story of how The Village People got together, has a lot of merit and would be great as a somewhat believable comedy-drama. However, it seems like no one working on this film took it seriously, with the end product being a horrendously absurd musical comedy where the camp is so through the roof that it’s painful to watch. Further, there are two other subplots that the film spends so much time on that it makes it so there's too much going on in this film. Both subplots are about Samantha too, one of which revolving around her ex-boyfriend who would rather get back with her than produce Jack’s music as well as the other one with her former agent trying to get her back. Honestly, it feels like the film was more or less trying to tell an unrealistic story of how a former model still in her prime continues to be wanted by everyone around her. It feels like the filmmakers really wanted to do that, but it wasn’t approved, so they slapped on a half-finished idea of the formation of The Village People onto it and turned their original idea into a couple of subplots.

None of the characters are likable at all either. Jack has a stable job working in a record store and decides to leave it so he can be a DJ and then won’t stop whining, even though life is turning out perfectly for him. Not to mention the fact that he’s roommates and good friends with a retired supermodel. She’s not even a good character either, considering she has next to no flaws and everything comes together for her without a hitch when trying to put the group together. As for The Village People, they are essentially caricatures of their real selves, with the film showing that they’re always in their iconic outfits.

That doesn’t even go into the acting, which is also awful. Guttenberg tries to give a somewhat decent performance, but the one he ends up giving is so unnatural that it’s difficult to connect with the character. Also, while she’s had other good performances in other films, it feels like Perrine can’t seem to act her way out of a wet paper bag in this film. She doesn’t even try to do so either, considering that all her lines are delivered like she’s just there for an easy paycheck. The Village People spend the entire film proving that their strengths lie in singing and dancing instead of acting as well.

Closing Thoughts

Granted, the music is somewhat decent, but most of the songs just feel out of place. It seems the worst offender of this is the construction worker David Hodo’s song “I Love You to Death.” Where he’s on a modeling set and just breaks into song about how he wants to be a model. The song is great and very catchy, but its placement just doesn’t feel right. Honestly, there are only two songs that seem to make any sort of sense and one is during the disco scene where "Samantha" plays. The other is when the group is practicing at the YMCA and they start playing "YMCA." To be fair, there are a lot of musicals that can pull off a sudden launch into a musical number, but this isn't one of those musicals.

Practically everything about this film is terrible and it isn't even fun to watch in a "so bad, it's good" kind of way. It did make a tenth of its budget back at the box office and it's interesting to wonder how it was able to do that.

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Emma on December 01, 2016:

Wow, this review COMPLETELY misses the point of the film. This is a stone cold classic full of terrible dancing, terrible plots, terrible acting and awesome music. There are so many memorably terrible moments in it (They do an ad for milk! They go to the YMCA! Bruce Jenner wears a crop top!) that it is played every year on New Years Eve in Australia. Every single year without fail. Because it's so awful it's brilliant.

Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on May 06, 2016:

One more thing - this film struck when the iron had gone cold. The disco craze - and the group themselves - were past their heyday. No matter what someone thought of the genre, I guess this showed there was a way to stop the music.