When I was a freshman in college my English teacher instilled in me the value of eliminating useless words and modifiers; to get rid of the extra verbiage which can cloud what it is you are trying to say. While gathering my thoughts for this review, I recalled my old professors’ sage advice and would like to use that knowledge to bring you the most concise review I can:
Staying Alive stinks.
Ok, maybe that is unnecessarily harsh since this film was – and still is – universally panned so that was just a potshot at an easy target. It could be that I’m just a curmudgeonly blogger full of snarky comments. Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment as I subjected myself to this torturous 90 minutes because I felt I needed to. It could be that my eternal optimism was hoping time would have given me with the wisdom to fully appreciate this film on every level.
But that didn’t happen. Staying Alive still stinks. On every level.
There was a time in the late 70’s – especially for my Italian-American brethren – when Tony Manero was the coolest guy on the planet. Of course, Saturday Night Fever was a gritty portrayal of urban life and the desire of one trying to escape it. So while we marveled at Tony on the dance floor, once he left the sleazy confines of 2001 Odyssey, he was far from the valiant hero.
Staying Alive finds Tony trying to be a better person but he still comes across as a misogynistic pig. Cue a chapter from the book of bad movie making and you will find a device designed to give the antagonist their comeuppance and grow into a better person so that the audience will cheer for them again is the ‘role reversal’. And so we are introduced – or subjected to – Laurie.
Yes, Laurie the ice queen; British, jealous, calculating, sexually indiscriminate – kind of like Tony in the first film. Well, except for the British part.
Let’s tune into a scene where Tony gets a taste of his own medicine as he and Laurie share a little “pillow talk”. Here Tony begins by praising her dancing:
Tony – “I could watch you for hours. It’s like you really did something with your life; and I think you’re significant.”
Laurie – “Mm, well… I think it’s about time we say goodnight.
See that? Role reversal and you didn’t even see it coming!
So what did we learn here? Nothing. And neither did Tony, as he spends the majority of the film dumping on the forlorn Jackie who follows him around like a love-sick little puppy. But guess what? He eventually learns his lesson and they have a happy ending! I guess her saying “I love you” about 75 times throughout the film rubbed off on him.
Staying Alive misses the mark on so many aspects it is laughable. The film mostly comes off looking like an 80’s music video – one that you hope you never see again! The music pales in comparison to the original and the dancing; well, if Alvin Ailey in hell is your thing… Oh yeah and an oiled-up Travolta pouncing across the stage in bikini briefs is not only uncool, it’s just creepy.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone, the film is about as nuanced as… well, a half-naked and oiled-up Travolta jumping on your back in synchronized movements to one of Frank Stallone’s songs which make up half of the soundtrack.
I saw Staying Alive in the theater during its original run and didn’t like it. Thirty years on and I still don’t like it. Which brings me to the discovery that I, A) went to the movies a lot in 1983 and B) I have recently reviewed way too many films from that year!
This is Mr. 1983, signing off.