How bad is this infamous 1980 musical mega-dud? CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC is so bad that it stars not, one, not two, but three people who can't sing, dance or act.
Steve Guttenberg is the composer who, if he can't make it in showbiz, is going "back to dental school" (which is where co-producer/co-writer Allan Carr found him); Valerie Perrine is the very chunky "Garbo of models"; and Olympic champ, Reality show celebrity and current plastic surgery experiment-in-progress Bruce Jenner is around just so he can be stripped down to his boxer shorts, with both Perrine and Guttenberg on their knees in front of him (don't ask).
Guttenberg's good pal Perrine, having offered to round up male singers who can do justice to his "great" songs, starts her search by "going for a Baskin-Robbins rush" — thus suggesting that sugar is to blame for her selection of the Village People as this movie's stars of tomorrow. (The "gimmick" of this late-'70s disco group of chorus boy types was their homoerotic "macho" regalia – one was a cop, another a cowboy, plus a construction worker, a GI, a leather-clad bad boy and, yes, an Indian.) Modeling magnate Tammy Grimes puts it succinctly: "There's really no accounting for taste."
This movie was the last word in the chichi "bisexuality" (read: gay) trend so flaunted in the late seventies – everyone in it behaves like a just-out-of-the-closet case. With a basso profundo that makes her sound like a drag queen, Grimes actually acts like one when she lays eyes on Jenner: "Fruit of the Loom is doing a big ad campaign. Something tells me you could really fit into a pair of jockey shorts."
This film's relentless obsession with how lads look in and out of their underwear makes it doubly surprising that the director was a woman, the late Bounty paper towel shill Nancy Walker. The recurring skivies motif reaches epic proportions during the infamous "Y.M.C.A." number: As the Village People prance around a health club singing, "You can get yourself clean/You can get a good meal/You can do whatever you feel," male wrestlers pin each other to the mat in geometric patterns (like chorines in a Busby Berkeley musical), Speedo-clad boy bathing beauties dive into a pool (like chorines in an Esther Williams musical), and naked men lather each other up in the shower (like nothing you've ever seen before). For a big finish, these guys line up to form a giant human "Y," and we can only wonder, "Y indeed?"
Answering the question "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Gypsy Rose Lee's kid sis June Havoc turns up to exclaim that the Village People seem "just like Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall" (actually, they seem just like Garland's audience), and then tells her son, Guttenberg, "It's your music that's bringing all these talented boys together – they ought to get down on their knees!" Such single entendres run in the family, for Guttenberg assures Perrine, "Anybody who could swallow two Sno Balls and a Ding-Dong shouldn't have any trouble with pride!"
But it’s Perrine who gets the most telling line of all: "This is the '80s, darling! You're going to see a lot of things you've never seen before." Well, yes, but little did she realize that she, Jenner, the Village People and Allan Carr musicals weren’t going to be among them.