Karen Lynn Gorney
Just because dancing and music are an integral part of a movie, that doesn't mean they're the most important part of the production. The filmmakers clearly understand this, and do an excellent job putting the story and characters first. This makes it all the more ironic that the highlight of the film is—you guessed it—the music and dancing. Its depiction of that '70s disco style mixed with the groovy Bees Gees tunes and John Travolta's slick moves on the dance floor, it all adds up to one of the most undeniably entertaining films of its kind.
It's not flawless, however. Despite the well realized coming-of-age storyline, the abrupt finish ends the film on a sour note. There's a noticeable lack of closure with many of the subplots; some feel rushed, and others are just tossed aside altogether (such as everything involving Tony's ex-priest brother). I realize the focus is meant to remain on Travolta's character, but the lack of payoff is irritating.
Ambiguous ending aside, the film's pleasantly surprising avoidance of clichés more than makes up for it. Specifically, there's a big dance competition (around which a lot of the film is focused) that ends in a very different manner than expected. So many pictures of this sort hop between two basic finales: the protagonist wins in the grandest of fashions, or they lose, but still win in the moral sense. Neither of those apply here, with the competition reflecting more about Tony's struggle with life, and his pushing aside of all the bullshit that surrounds it.
There are an endless amount of movies that have attempted to emulate the SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER formula, but none of them have come close to capturing its magic. They were so busy taking FEVER's basic premise and turning it into a generic mishmash of dance sequences and artificial moments of drama, they forgot all about the realism and heart that made the film what it continues to be today. If all you care about is style, watch FLASHDANCE. If you care about style and substance, pick up SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
Unfortunately, the only returning extra from the previous DVD release (which came out a mere five years ago) is the commentary.
Audio Commentary (with director John Badham): Nothing new to report here, what with this being the same track made available to the 25th Anniversary Edition. It's a good listen.
Catching The Fever (51:00): This 5-part featurette features many interesting retrospective interviews, but Travolta is absent, which is a big disappointment. The sections are separated into: 30 Year Legacy, Making Soundtrack History, Platforms & Polyester, Deejays & Discos, and Spotlight on Travolta.
Back to Bay Ridge (9:00): A revisiting of the Brooklyn locations featured in the movie, showing how much it's changed.
Dance Like Travolta (10:00): Professional dance instructor John Cassese teaches how to—you guessed it—dance like Travolta in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
Fever Challenge (4:00): This is basically a game of Dance Dance Revolution without the mat to play on. In other words, it's worthless.
70's Discopedia: A factoid pop-up featurette that's great to play while listening to the commentary.
There's also a PREVIEW for DREAMGIRLS.