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Staying Alive

It's amusing to consider the paralyzing stroke of horror that must have dumbfounded die-hard fans of Saturday Night Fever (1977) as they first beheld this monstrously terrible 1983 sequel. In perhaps the gayest film ever made about heterosexuals, John Travolta reprises his star-making role of Tony Manero, the swaggering Brooklyn romeo who, following the death of his beloved disco, is now living in Manhattan and struggling to break into Broadway musicals. His fierce desire (we know it's fierce, because when he dances he looks really angry and sweats a lot as he pounces across the stage, and because when he's not dancing he acts like a prick, and when not a prick like a creepy stalker) eventually wins him the male lead in a bizarre synth-pop ballet called Satan's Alley, which is full of simulated sex and damnation and Frank Stallone music and would be, if it were real, considered the worst Broadway show ever produced by a mile. Speaking of Frank Stallone, whose omnipresent Survivor-lite anthem "Far From Over" was both the high point of his career and the low point of '80s music, Staying Alive was written and co-directed by his brother Sylvester, who must've been aching for a project that would make his next picture, Rhinestone, only the second worst film ever made. Really. Staying Alive is violently antithetical to its excellent predecessor: The dialogue is terrible, the acting stilted, the characters flaccid clichés, the milieu baffling, the music — including the six poorest Bee Gees songs ever put to wax and seven (seven!) songs from F. Stallone — is brain-hurtingly awful. And, even worse, it's boring. It's what you imagine Purple Rain would have been without the great soundtrack, or Showgirls without the nudity. The climactic dance extravaganza is hilariously pretentious, but it fails to redeem the insipid buildup. Also with Cynthia Rhodes, who is almost good as the nice girl who loves Tony, and Finola Hughes. Both Stallone and Travolta were duly punished for their participation: Sly starred next in the humiliating Rhinestone, and JT would not appear in a good film for another 11 years. Paramount's DVD release of Staying Alive offers a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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