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  Staying Alive Dancing Fool
Year: 1983
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: John Travolta, Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes, Steve Inwood, Julie Bovasso, Charles Ward, Steve Bickford, Patrick Brady, Norma Donaldson, Jesse Doran, Joyce Hyser, Deborah Jenssen, Robert Martini, Sarah M. Miles, Tony Munafo, Kurtwood Smith, Frank Stallone
Genre: Musical, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: Tony Manero (John Travolta) is still dreaming of achieving his big break, five years after being king of the disco dancefloor. He now works as a waiter in a nightclub where he has his own small fan club of loving ladies, but cannot make this translate to popularity on the stage. Tony also has a job as a dance instructor, but attends rehearsals for Broadway shows in the hope that he will be picked for one of them, in the chorus line if nowhere else. Not today, though, as he is let down once again, but his fellow dancer girlfriend Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes) has faith in him, for who knows what might be around the corner?

Saturday Night Fever was such a huge success that it was natural, after its star Travolta was seeing his career as a leading man on the slide, that he should star in the sequel, Staying Alive, a potential hit with the promise of the familiar formula named after one of the original's most popular songs. So The Bee Gees were brought back to provide a few tunes, Sylvester Stallone was brought in to co-write and direct between Rocky movies, and it was all wrapped up in some of the latest dance routines essayed by Travolta. How could it possibly fail? Or, as those who saw it were asking, how could it possibly succeed?

Well, the short answer was that it didn't, and though it was one of the top ten moneymakers of its year, posterity was not kind and it went down in movie history as one of the worst sequels of all time. But the era of the eighties has passed and we can now look at this film with fresh eyes, seeing this for what it is: absolutely ridiculous. In fact, by the finale Staying Alive has achieved a fever all right, a kind of delirium of camp couldn't possibly be regarded as the slightest bit gay. No, not with Travolta dressed in a loincloth, muscular, shaven-chested and well-oiled, being whipped by men in studded leather, I mean, come on, what's homosexual about that? Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose they really were than innocent.

Before we reach that grand finale of unintentional hilarity, however, there's the rest of the plot to be endured, and coming from Stallone it bears more than a passing resemblance to a Rocky movie, surely no coincidence. Only with dancing instead of people knocking seven bells out of each other (though Tony does receive a cut above his eye in time-honoured pugilist fashion). What the majority of this is concerned with is a love triangle between Tony, Jackie and new girl in his life Laura (Finola Hughes) who happens to be the star of the show our hero finally gets a role in. In an example of inverted snobbery, wealthy and pampered Laura is bitchy and cruel, leading on poor, deluded Tony only to run hot and cold with him at every opportunity - of course, she has to be English.

Ah, but Laura can help Tony's career, so with Jackie sent into frequent huffs as the star wraps him around her little finger we have to sit through acres of scenes of Tony's wounded pride, and with himself being his biggest fan after all, that's some suffering. Especially on the part of the audience, but there are rewards, the chief one being Satan's Alley, the highlight of the film and the big opening night for the cast. For British viewers in the eighties, I imagine Staying Alive would have looked like Travolta joining Hot Gossip, or even The Brian Rogers Connection, but here the killer moves are executed with the same gusto as a glitzy Las Vegas entertainment not unlike the showcases of nineties notoriety Showgirls, complete with dry ice and much writhing, all scored to the classic tunes of, no, not The Bee Gees (though they did contribute uncharacteristically bland songs to the soundtrack), but one Frank Stallone - that's right, the director's brother. As amusingly ludicrous as the climax is, it's too high a price to pay for sitting through the rest of the movie, which is essentially the story of an idiot. Who dances.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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