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COPACABANA (1985).

Heaven help us all! It's Barry Manilow's made-for-TV musical, based on his hit tune. Are you at all surprised to learn it's a thoroughly misguided, painfully laughable waste of time? It makes ANNIE look watchable, and not only does it feature this blonde geek's music, but Manilow also shoves his ugly puss in front of the camera in the lead role, while demonstrating all the natural charisma of head lice...Leave it to executive producer Dick Clark to pump out this mega-drivel, along with hack director Waris Hussein (who has loads of films to his credit, and not one worth mentioning). At least they had the singular instance of good taste to hire the woefully underrated Annette O'Toole (SMILE, CAT PEOPLE) for the ingenue role. It almost makes up for the presence of a pre-GOLDEN GIRL Estelle Getty. Though it fails on every conceivable level, this musical fantasy tries to pay homage to '40s-style musicals, with Manilow playing Tony Star, a Brooklyn-bred World War II veteran (insert: laughter so hard that beer-runs out of your nose) who yearns to be a famous song-writer, runs into Lola Lamar (O'Toole) on a "Name That Tune"-style radio show, and eventually lands a bartending gig at NYC's famous Copacabana. Before you can say "Shut off this piece of crap!", Manilow is hawking songs to producers, Annette is working as a dime-a-dance girl and the two become a couple. Meanwhile, Annette proves her acting chops with the simple fact she doesn't vomit uncontrollably the moment Barry's lips touch hers. Unfortunately, the script only recycles the hoariest, sappiest twists from the past. Along the rocky way, Barry meets his long-long Dad, loses Annette, and finally gets an on-stage gig, where he dances with all the grace of a duck with a brain tumor. In between the 'spectacular' musical numbers (which wouldn't cut it as 5th rate community theatre), Manilow has to save Annette from gangster Rico Caselli (Joe Bologna), who's whisked her to Havana... As a romantic lead, Manilow is just below William Hickey on the Hunkiness Scale. Still, his character acts like God's Gift to AM Radio, and displays an ego almost as big as his nose. On the other hand, O'Toole is so charming that you wish she were in a real film. The worst thing? Everybody takes this steaming chunk of feces seriously! I can't believe this was ever financed in the first place -- the only way I can figure it, Manilow must've had photos of some studio exec schtupping a Girl Scout.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.