Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Can’t Stop the Music (1980)

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When you start to become a movie fan, just as you hear about the great movies of the past, you hear about the movies that are infamous for just how bad they are. One of such films is Can’t Stop the Music, the 1980 Village People vehicle that Nathaniel Rogers picked for the April Fool’s edition of his wonderful Hit Me With Your Best Shot series. In case you were wondering, the movie is just as ridiculous as you’d expect. The script is horrendous, the performances bad all around, and while your enjoyment of the music will depend on your personal feelings towards disco (and the Village People), there is no denying that there is worth in watching this movie. I mean, who doesn’t prefer an entertaining and interesting failure to a boringly mediocre movie. I would watch this musical ten more times before I watch Darren Aronofsky’s Noah again, for example.

Picking the best shot of Can’t Stop the Music proved to be surprisingly hard. There are just too many ridiculous things going on in this movie. I suppose the most famous part is the raunchy “YMCA” sequence, but you have lots of equally bizarre things to pick from, like the all-white milk shake dance, Steve Gutenberg’s childishly enthusiastic dancing, Valerie Perrine’s eerily constant smiling, and Bruce Jenner playing a square that suddenly decides to wear what is basically a crop top. Just the opening scene (pictured above) is fantastic, as it features Gutenberg rollerskating around New York City.

The thing that ultimately got to me while watching Can’t Stop the Music is that I couldn’t grasp just how self-aware the movie is. The horrible initial reviews, and its reputation as the first winner of the Razzie award for Worst Picture sugges the people involved didn’t know what movie they were making. But then, there’s a scene like this:

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That is Steve Gutenberg and Valerie Perrine on their knees, unbuttoning Bruce Jenner’s pants after he spilled hot lasagna all over himself. If that isn’t the filmmakers catering to the audience that, frankly, would love the campy qualities of a movie starring the Village People, then I don’t know what that is. This shot is the Rosetta stone to understanding the pleasures of Can’t Stop the Music. I think it’s ridiculous that someone would give this movie a bad review, or that it would even call it bad, considering how perfect it is in its tone and sensibility. And if the people involved didn’t know they were making a future camp classic, well, then this might very well be one of the most fascinating movies ever.

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