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STAYING ALIVE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Travolta, Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes, Steve Inwood
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: October 8, 2002

“DO YOU KNOW WHAT I WANNA DO?”

“What?”

“Strut.”

Film *1/2

Saturday Night Fever was one of the greatest films to emerge from the 70s. It captured a unique era, and it spawned the very revolution it was reflecting in disco. It also introduced the world to the charismatic John Travolta, for which I will always be grateful to the movie for. But was this influential film in desperation of a sequel? I never did think so. Staying Alive features Travolta, in probably the best physical shape he’s ever been in, reprising his signature role as Tony Manero. Although in this entry, Manero is dancing to the sound of a different beat, which alone is one of the film’s weaknesses.

Picking up six years after the events in Fever, the story is about how Tony aspires to make it on the Broadway scene. He has moved out of his parents’ house in Brooklyn, and now resides in a Manhattan hotel, where he works as both a waiter and as a dance instructor. He finds himself caught between two women, Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes), a fellow dancer who has waited long enough for Tony to come to his senses, and the stuck up Laura (Finola Hughes), whose a beauty of a dancer and a woman, though seems to be leading Tony on, even though they do engage in a fast one night stand.

The movie, directed and co-written by Sylvester Stallone, rids all of the edge and realism that made Fever a classic and substitutes it with a formulaic plotline that grows predictable by the minute. We know how the story will end up. We know which girl Tony will end up with pretty much at first glance. But another problem is that there is no feeling to any of the drama, as many of the scenes in between the dance numbers feel nothing short of forced. And while the climatic dance show, dubbed Satan’s Alley, is something of a lavish production, it doesn’t have the raw energy of a single dance sequence from its predecessor.

In short, Staying Alive is a sequel that was never necessary in the first place. The first film is such a masterpiece of its time and place in the 70s that a contuation of its lead character in the early 80s isn’t exactly worth getting involved in. The overall best moment in the film is the final shot, which has Tony reprising his famous walk from the beginning of Saturday Night Fever.

BONUS TRIVIA: Look closely and you’ll spot Sly Stallone himself as the guy Travolta bumps into while walking. Sly’s brother Frank, who sings the movie’s theme song “Far From Over”, appears as a nightclub singer.

Video **

Another victim of a mediocre 80s movie transfer to coincide with the releases of Footloose and Flashdance. For starters, I have never seen the opening Paramount logo in such weak shape. The anamorphic picture tries to remain as sharp as it can be, but it suffers from too much softness somewhat weak colors. Overall, the disc can’t seem to remain as sharp as its producers would’ve intended.

Audio ***

There is hardly a moment when Staying Alive isn’t alive with music in its background, and Paramount’s lively 5.1 mix does a much impressive job of making the film’s music come to life. Frank Stallone’s song, “Far From Over” never sounded more lively and thunderous, and making you feel as if you were back in 1983. Dialogue is for the most part clear, but it’s the musical aspect that makes this presentation.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

With Staying Alive, you can’t blame them for wanting to try a stab at sequelizing Saturday Night Fever, but the end result could’ve been so much better than it turned out.