Four years ago, Nikki Finn (Madonna) was framed for a crime she did not commit when the police found the body of her boyfriend in the back of her car. Now she is being released, and after seeing the parole board, for whom her only question is if they have any mascara, she prepares to leave on the condition she heads straight for Philadelphia and stays there to check in with her parole officer. However, not a million miles away is Loudon Trott (Griffin Dunne), the aspiring businessman ordered to ensure Nikki makes that bus trip...
The music career of Madonna is littered with huge successes as she proved she had a knack for tapping into whatever pop people wanted to hear for decades; not so her movie career which started with observers considering her promising for Desperately Seeking Susan, then a dead loss in practically every film she deigned to bless with her presence following that. For Who's That Girl (a title with a missing question mark, surely), the box office takings were meagre while the singles from the soundtrack went ballistic: it would seem more people saw the video for the title song on television than ever bothered to check out its actual origin.
According to John Mills, who showed up later on in a nice old man role, this went wrong the minute the director James Foley fell in love with Madonna, and there were rumours that such antics as him having to kiss her feet just to get her to redub a line would indicate the balance of power was somewhat tipped in the star's favour. Her previous film had been Shanghai Surprise, which even the megastar's fans had trouble endorsing, so quite why she wanted to dive straight back into the same pool of scorn and opprobrium by making her own version of a forties screwball comedy was a mystery only she knew the answer to.
The idea here was that wild and wacky Nikki would shake up stuffed shirt Loudon, leading to him realising she was the woman for him, as if they were Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby - there was even a big cat to accompany them, here called Murray and intended as decoration at Loudon's wedding to fiancée Wendy (Haviland Morris, who would have made a great Hepburnesque heroine if this film had been cast more sensibly). Wendy is the daughter of his boss Mr Worthington (John McMartin), and Loudon hopes to improve his lot in the business by marrying into the family ordering him about which you can see a mile off will never happen once Nikki makes her entrance.
This wasn't such a terrible premise for a movie, after all it succeeded four decades before this so it was a tried and tested formula, but mix it in with Madonna's idea of cute and kooky and you had a highly resistable result. She gradually toned it down as the plot progressed, but for the first half at least she was the sort of person any reasonable man would run away from as fast as their legs would carry them, with shoplifter and maniac driver among her supposedly more endearing qualities. With a put-on little girl voice and an arrogant air not softened by her intended adorability, the leading lady was one of the most irksome in this era's comedies, which was all the more offensive in light of the fact this was meant to have us falling for Nikki just as that sap Loudon did. With a script setting up ker-ay-zee situations but no concept of what to do with them, not least find something funny about them, Who's That Girl might not have been a total disaster, but it's hard for non-Madonna obsessives to get behind. Music by Stephen Bray.