Adam Lawrence (John Travolta) is one of the top writers on Rolling Stone magazine, though the people he writes his articles around do not always appreciate what he has said about them, thanks to his take no prisoners attitude. He may have started out penning the obituary page, but five years later he can come up with controversial pieces about the likes of Carly Simon which lands him the privilege of her throwing a drink in his face in a fancy restaurant. Yet he thinks he is really onto something when he sees all the bad press a computer company boss (Kenneth Welsh) is getting - could he actually be a drugs runner?
Wait a minute, isn't this supposed to be a movie about aerobics? Well, it is and it isn't, because the plot had it that Adam would head down to Los Angeles to investigate the supposedly corrupt boss, yet while there he notices a bunch of people in leisure outfits and becomes entranced with the idea that health clubs are a great place to meet people. Nowadays the notion of Travolta running rampant in one of those places is enough to generate legal nightmares, but back in 1985 it was cause for unsettlings of a different stripe when it was just one of many vehicles for the star which failed at the box office, rendering his many comebacks looking more like lucky flukes than career savvy.
Indeed, such was the failure of Perfect that Travolta didn't star in a movie for almost five years, and it took a certain Mr Quentin Tarantino to bring his star back to somewhere near the level it had been in his nineteen-seventies heyday. As for this, you could see what director James Bridges was getting at: Saturday Night Fever had been a huge hit expanded from an article, and this was taken from a Rolling Stone piece about how fitness clubs were basically a front for its members to get laid with each other, all while looking fabulous, naturally. The eighties craze for these intense but upbeat keep fit drives left this coming across like the movie version of Jane Fonda's Workout video.
That had sold in its millions, but audiences were less inclined to watch Jamie Lee Curtis bustin' moves in the cinema when they could exercise themselves in the privacy of their own home. The advertising campaign made this appear to be two solid hours of pelvic thrusting, when it was really only half that - no, only joking, but that was what you would remember from it when the bulk turned out to be a drama on journalistic ethics. Curtis's aerobics instructor, leading classes as if they were political rallies, suspects rightly that Adam is going to make her and her friends look like total sluts in his article, and the rest of the story is a lesson for him in treating his subjects like human beings (Saturday Night Live comedienne Laraine Newman gets the best character in that regard, while it's obvious why Taxi's Marilu Henner was hired).
But who was interested in that when you could watch the cast work out? The director of Eric Prydz's Call On Me video (hard to escape from for a while in the early noughties) lifted a whole sequence from Perfect virtually shot for shot, which should give you an idea of where the kitsch following for the movie resided, but you would have to wade through the rather dry (ironically, considering all that perspiration) moral quandaries and pretentious posturing about aerobics being a social movement and reaction of the Me Generation against the previous decade's misdemeanours. In spite of journalists emerging from this looking like terrible people, Rolling Stone magazine absolutely endorsed it from beginning to end, even getting a special thanks in the credits and featuring editor Jann Wenner in a supporting role, which left a confused tone when it wasn't relying on the steadier dance sequences, dropped in like musical numbers throughout. It was, needless to say, so eighties it hurts, from its legwarmers to its Boy George impersonators. That might be enough for entertainment.