Karen Lynn Gorney
I should have known better with an awesome director like John Badham (the man who brought us classics like WarGames, Short Circuit, and Stakeout). Despite the obvious laughter that comes with John Travolta in white bell-bottoms shaking his ass on a rainbow-colored dance floor, Saturday Night Fever is a very adult film, one that certainly isn't safe (or enjoyable) for the High School Musical crowd.
There’s a bevy of F-bombs, liberal use of the C-word, even a healthy dose of racial slurs. Throw in the obligatory date rape or two and some titty flashes (70’s boobs!) and you've actually got yourself a nice, gritty drama. Surprisingly, the source of many of these little ditties is our hero, played by everyone’s second favorite Scientologist, John Travolta. As 19-year-old Tony Manero, Travolta is a bit of an anti-hero. He’s a sexist womanizer with a foul mouth and very little ambition (other than to be the king of the dance floor). He comes from a bit of broken home, but his buddies (and all the women around him) seem to want nothing more in life than to worship the ground he walks on.
It's refreshing to see a film without a typical story arc or a flawless protagonist, but, the lack of a real conflict or struggle here is what for me separated the film from other 70’s predecessors and made it really drag in some parts. Yes, Tony's dad is an unemployed jerk, and he’s not rolling in the dough, but that’s really all Tony has going against him, unlike other down-on-their-luck film heroes of the 70s like Travis Bickle, Frank Serpico or Rocky Balboa (it’s no coincidence that Manero has Rocky and Serpico posters on his wall). Things come easy to Manero outside his home life, as he has no real enemies or obstacles when on the dance floor. In fact, he is often his own worst enemy, which can occasionally be interesting to watch.
I know what you’re thinkin- “Enough with the pretentious plot analysis, how are them dance moves?!” Well, if you’re hoping to see Travolta and his cronies step up and serve somebody…you’ll be sorely disappointed. None of the moves here are mind-blowing (although they certainly are fun to giggle at), though it is easy to see how, at one point, disco may have been cool. Visuals are expectedly colorful and if you’re a fan of the disco era, welcome to the promised land. However, as previously mentioned, this film really isn’t about the music, it’s about the ups and downs of growing up in 70's Brooklyn. And that honest portrayal is the reason I fully recommend it (also for the 70’s boobs).
70’s Discopedia: A trivia track that runs on the bottom of the screen during the film. It provides mostly uninteresting bits about how much of a phenomenon the film was, and how others have imitated it since. Some decent disco trivia in here though.
Catching the Fever: (52:32) - A five part documentary on all things SNF. The cast and crew come back to talk about the massive impact and success of the film in Part 1 (skip it). Part 2 discusses the legendary Beegees soundtrack with interviews and stories from the band members themselves (check this out). Part 3 discusses the costumes, which may have been sweet at the time, but, as one of the actresses jokingly mentions here: “now are outlawed.” Part 4 is all about the disco movement and Studio 54, with interviews from some of the self-proclaimed “disco queens” from that era (who are dudes FYI), thereby reaffirming my hunch that despite what this film depicts, disco just ain’t manly. Part 5 is the usual fluff piece about the lead, John Travolta, who despite being goofy at times, is actually pretty good in this film. Even if he's too much of a douche nozzle to show up and shoot a friggin' interview for this DVD.
Back to Bay Ridge: (9:00) - We go back to the Bay Ridge section of New York with one of the film’s stars to revisit some of the film’s locations. Pretty tongue-in-cheek, and thus, a pretty fun little featurette.
Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese (9:05): The freakish self-proclaimed “Dance Doctor to the stars” and his slightly-less-awkward dance partner Janelle teach us some steps from Travolta’s famous final number. Who would have thought you could learn to dance like Travolta in just over 9 minutes flat?
Fever Challenge (4:00): This is a hilarious little disco version of Dance Dance Revolution for the fans at home. Because I care so much about you Joblo readers, and because your safety is my utmost priority, I got up off the couch and tested out this routine myself. Goofy and embarassing? God yes. Fun and challenging? You betcha.
Deleted Scenes (3:36) - Three short scenes, the first of which alludes to Tony’s secret inner rapist. The second scene is a fairly major plot point that I’m glad they removed from the film (won’t spoil it for ya). The third one has Tony trying to get into Stephanie’s building, after his rapist cat has been let out of its bag.
Extra Tidbit: - Apparently, Simon Cowell is developing a remake with Zac Efron in mind for the lead. Shoot me in the face right now.