At long lingering last this column reaches the end of a month long movie shaming festival for yours truly and I’m finishing the guilty pleasure series with a film that truly defies all normal entertaining cinematic comprehension – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! This Boxing Day it’s me gloves to gloves against everyone as I divulge my undying love for a flick that has every bad movie cliché on the docket…and it just doesn’t matter. (Up yours Razzies!) Full of 80’s tropes (high hair, montages and leg warmers galore!), death defying dance numbers and two girls both good and bad it’s time to lay barren my affinity for the sizzling sequel that is….Staying Alive!
It’s been six years since disco king Tony Manero has move from Brooklyn to Manhattan and not much has changed. He’s still as cocky as ever, oozing confidence and out to make his mark as a professional dancer. But the former master of moves is finding that he’s truly a small fish in a big pond and becoming the star he was back home is a tall order. But he eventually lands a small part in a show and with the help and hindrance of two very different women Tony will once again be trust into the spotlight to fly or fail.
I, like so many other critics, could go into great detail about the obvious film flaws that plague Staying Alive. The story is a classic been there, done that tale of making bad choices to reach the right ones, the characters are completely one-note and the film features some of the most unbelievably intricate dance numbers that would never be attempted on any stage let alone a Broadway one. But amidst the constant smell of ripe old cheddar there’s a single cell organism that holds the thin sliced mozza of Staying Alive together for me – Travolta. As the still cocky and cocksure Tony Manero, John Travolta exudes attitude and charisma in every frame of the film and it’s what makes the unwatchable watchable. (The poster featuring his face below graced my walls for years as a kid!) Whether he’s working as a hot walking waiter in a local club for adoring groupies (Joyce Hyser from Just One Of The Guys alert!), diverting from the set audition routine in hopes of being noticed by a lead choreographer (it’s Robocop baddie Clarence Boddicker himself Kurtwood Smith!) or jumping back and forth between an ice queen (the feisty and fetching Finola Hughes!) and a girl scout (the super sweet Cynthia Rhodes!) in a game of personal ping pong, Travolta is truly the king of the Staying Alive ring.
And calling it a ring is fitting as Rocky himself Sylvester Stallone takes the directing reigns on this second helping to Saturday Night Fever and he unapologetically stages it like a grandiose prize fight with all the trope trimmings. There’s the moral dilemma (will Tony pick the good girl or the bad one?), the underdog factor (can a newbie dancer make lead in the show?), the consulting of the elder with with wisdom and knowledge (Tony’s priest brother is here replaced by his sassy pie force-feeding mom as his conscience confidant!) and even the high and low ridden final battle itself (the show Satan’s Alley is faux Broadway at it’s most extravagant!) – Stallone knows the drill. Rambo even throws a little nepotism into this one giving his crooning brother Frank not only a small role, but also a slew of songs on the soundtrack that surprisingly don’t suck. (Okay, I listen the CD in my car, but in fairness it also has Bee Gees and Cynthia Rhodes tunes too – so shoot me!)
Staying Alive despite being riddled by all as a total cinematic sh@t sandwich (it was dubbed the ‘worst sequel ever’ by Entertainment Weekly, got multiple Razzie nominations and currently holds a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes!), the film earn a fistful of money, so it means that there are some closet fans out there like me. Folks who behind closed doors love the songs, the swagger and the style of Staying Alive, despite the fact that it’s a flick dripping with serious swiss. (The final scene sees our Brooklyn bad boy triumphantly strutting through Time Square – so bad, so good!) It’s okay to love a film everyone hates…but let’s keep this just between us.