Terribly Awesome: Staying Alive

Just another Manic Monday? Wish it was Sunday? Nothing beats a case of the Mondays like a camp-out. And we ain't talkin' s'mores, sing-a-longs and psycho killers. We're talking about getting in touch with your guilty pleasure zone. That's right, every Monday we'll be bringing you the best of the worst. It's gonna be awesome - and terrible! - all at the same time.

Photo: impaawards.com

Get out your back pocket combs, white suits, chin swabs and falsetto voice changers, Cinefilles and boys! It's Travolta time!

That's right. Since the Grease Sing-A-Long has been taking over the Internets - and "towns near you" - I decided it was time to look back at John Travolta's finest hour (unless you count, Pulp Fiction) - the late 70s.  All this week, I will be kicking it Tony Manero and Danny Zuko styles - bringing you reviews of said Rydell High rehash (Thursday Tuesday),  the classiness that is Saturday Night Fever (Friday) and its highly superior (at least in my, camp-loving mind), and cleverly titled, 1983 sequel. 
Staying Alive was so awful, Entertainment Weekly dubbed it the "Worst Sequel Ever Made", behind such classic follow-ups as Speed 2: Cruise Control, Batman & Robin and Leprechaun 2: Back 2 Tha' Hood . They criticized the film, which follows Saturday Night Fever's disco-dancing protagonist as he heads to NYC to try and make a career out of his smooth moves, for the ridiculous hell-bound B-way show Tony becomes a part of ("So cheesy it looks like Bob Mackie throwing up on the Starlight Expresss.") and the Stallone-heavy sass that surrounds it (See, the "Why it's AWESOME" section below). In their minds, Staying Alive's was the worst of the worst because it "ignored everything that made the original great." I have to strongly disagree.

I never liked Saturday Night Fever that much (more on that Friday..), but I LOVE Staying Alive. Because unlike the original, SA doesn't succeed in being serious, gritty and poignant. In fact, it fails epically on all those accounts. It's superficial and nonsensical, the perfect piece of dance movie fluff you can't help but watch every time you're home sick with only a blanket, a bowl of chicken noodle and half a mind to your name.  I suppose you could call it, Sunday Afternoon Flu. But then it wouldn't be as overtly awesome (Tony clearly isn't in any legitimate danger, but his dance career may be DOA if he doesn't get this choreography!).

But I digress into terrible metaphors. The point is, like the awkward Grease sequel I openly love, Staying Alive is not an unbearable Travolta sequel. Okay, maybe it is. But that's the point. It's just a hot mess of an 80s movie, filled with leg warmers, metallic body suits, second rate Bee Gees tunes, broken dreams and dance world love triangles. What else can you really ask for? An epically over-the-top tagline? 


"It's five years later for Tony Manero. The fever still burns!"

Why it's terrible:

-  Okay, so EW was sorta right. The plot really stretches to connect to the first one. I mean, other than the fact that the main character is strutty, man slut/dance fiend, Tony Manero, Staying Alive has hardly got any Fever. Sure, there's the token Tony-and-Mama-Manero bonding moment and a nod to the original's main song in the title (and end credits), but other than that, the connections between the films are way forced or downright ridiculous. Like when Tony whips out the old white suit for a party - and then puts a baby blue v-neck under it.  Say what-the-hell-was-he-drinking?!

(White cotton hot!)

- Also, there's a too-obvious link between his lady loves in this and Fever.  Both have Tony falling hard for a bitchy brunette black widow and using a shaggy, misunderstood blonde as an emotional punching bag (Jackie, played by Cynthia Rhodes). Where's the originality  - and the gingers?

- Finola Hughes, the actress who plays Tony's lust interest, Laura, is the worst. Major bitchface.

- Tony's relationship with Laura blossoms into the most montage-y montage of all lovelorn Central Park montages. There's random dancing, a carriage ride, run-ins with random vandalized statues and...a pointing contest?

(What's the point of all this?)

- Tony says he likes Laura because she's "all intelligent-like" but proceeds to berate her with cheesy lines. "I could watch you for hours. It's like watching smoke move."

- Speaking of smoke, most of the time, the movie looks like it's been shot with a dry ice. Or a Vaseline lens.

- The head choreographer of "Satan's Alley" is played by the Jackie Earle Hayley of 80s dance cinema, Steve Inwood -  a.k.a. that pedophile creeper who made Coco take her top off in Fame


- Tony tries to get Freudian about his failing career. His thoughts on the agents who won't talk to him? "They all sounds like my father to me!"

Why it's AWESOME:


- Not only did Sly direct and write this 1983 masterpiece, he also managed to make a totally inconspicuous cameo (that's Tony on the right and you know who on the left!), wearing giant shades and a fur coat. 

(So Sly.)

- Everything about the movie is perfectly shameless, tacky and overdone. Or rather, 80s. See, the main storyline, which has Tony taking Broadway by storm in a demonic all-dance spectacular called "Satan's Alley" that vaguely documents a "decent into hell" and an "ascent into heaven." Also, this:

 - Laura: "Oh, don't take it so personally." Tony: "I've got to! There's no one else in the room!"

- This totally unnecessary  shower scene:

 (He's got abs, they're multiplying!)

- Tony's reason for not wanting to do a nude scene? His mom. "She's afraid I'll get a cold, or somethin'."

- Random crotch shot time!

(Just in case you didn't know he's the Man-ero.)

- Girl at club: "You know why I order so many drinks?" Tony: "Cause you're an alcoholic?" Girl: "Cause I like to watch you walk."

- Other girl, after Tony turns down her offer to "party" at her apartment: "Guys like you aren't relationships - they're exercise!"

- Tony LOVES his sweatbands. 

(Tony and the various Band-fits.)

- As the DVD art reads: "the soundtrack pulsates with the power of FIVE unforgettable Bee Gees songs PLUS Frank Stallone's [yes, Sly's bro] chart-topping hit, 'Far From Over.'"

- Speaking of Frank, he totally has a mega role as Jackie's musician friend that Tony gets jealous of after Laura treats him like the douche he kind of is. And when Frank's not creating some dude drama, his voice is setting the mood for one of the film's many slow-mo dance montages. He's got 5 songs on the soundtrack. He's practically a Gibb bro now. 

(Let's be Frank.)

- Tony: "She's in good hands." Frank: "What are you, All-State?" Tony: "Yeah! You want disability!?"

-Three words: SATAN'S. ALLEY. ARTWORK.

(Disco Dante's inferno!)

- I think American Apparel got their Spring line from this dance practice sequence.

- The final dance is HELLA AWESOME.

- After giving a life-changing performance, all Tony wants to do is (surprise, surprise) STRUT. The end.

*All screencaps courtesy of the Paramount Pictures via the DVD.*.

1 comment:

  1. I love this movie. Travolta was very sexy at 27 y.o. ;-)