However, what most people who haven’t seen it would not be aware of, this disco flick is more like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting with corny ethnic strife gang violence and casual racism — there’s a helluva lot of carnage, fist-fighting, death.
Needless to say, this is a move that’s on the surface, a Bee Gees four-on-the-four platform booted dance-fest, and yet it’s dragged in all different directions and doesn’t really know what it wants to be.
At its centre, John Travolta as Tony Monera (and a brief appearance by Fran Drescher as his teen sister), a bridge-and-tunnel hardware store lunkhead. The reason for his existence is taming the dancefloor at 2001 Odyssey, a nondescript warehouse that looks more like a downmarket Hells Angels clubhouse.
He connects romantically with a college student, a more schooled dancer. Him and his moron buddies clown around atop the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, and he realizes that despite having no ambition, smarts, or focus, he’s no longer the black sheep of the Monera clan as his brother’s left the priesthood.
A mystifying breakout hit that grossed 68X its budget, and even Pauline Kael gushed, “Nirvana is the dance; when the music stops, you return to being ordinary.”
However, the themes, at their core, resonate perhaps now more than ever: aspirational stardom (regardless of how relatively insignificant) to escape the hum-drum, pre-social media peacocking/preening, and misplaced youthful priorities/exuberance/drug taking.
*** (out of 5)