- Movie Rating -

Staying Alive (1983)

| July 15, 1983

I remember with relish the greatness of Saturday Night Fever, of the journey of Tony Manero, a kid from Brooklyn whose life was a mess but who was a dream on the disco floor.  He wasn’t intelligent, and he wasn’t entirely likable, but he had a dream of crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and making something of himself.  It was a beautiful story.

And to be honest, I prefer to stay with the dream because if Staying Alive illustrates what he found when he got there, I think he was better off staying home.  This is a dismal sequel, never considerate of its character’s journey, never mindful of the things he learned.  Manero’s story here has been patted down and propped up like a retread of Flashdance.

John Travolta doesn’t seem to be playing the same character here.  Tony has made it over the bridge and is now living in a run-down apartment, working as a waiter and as a dance instructor and is attached to pretty but dull Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes).  They are dating but he screws around and at one point ends up in bed with the much more fetching Laura (Fiona Hughes) but afterwards dismisses him.  Never-the-less, she has a new show that suddenly has a lead dancer who just isn’t cutting it.  That leaves the door open for Tony.

What follows is basically a retread of very plot of every old Hollywood musical that you’ve seen as Tony tries and tries to make a go of getting it right, dealing with frustration and dreading the big night.  It is the kind of movie where you know which character will play what part in the plot and you’re never wrong.  They all talk like they’re reading cue cards mostly because the movie is written that way.

What is worse is the show that they are aiming to turn into a success.  It’s called “Satan’s Alley” and it looks like if Bob Fosse had nightmare wherein he made a show about Tarzan in Night of the Living Dead.  It has not narrative structure.  She dancers are just winging it and the people in the audience (mostly elderly people) applaud this nonsense like its was pure genius – including Tony’s mother!  It is just as aimless as the rest of the movie.

Sylvester Stallone directed this mess more or less with the same simple-minded blunt force aggressiveness with which he wrote and directed Rocky III but at least with that movie he had a story to work through and at least he had a trajectory for the characters to get to.  With this, I’m not even sure that he remembers Saturday Night Fever or perhaps never even saw it.  I did, I remember every detail, every nuance, every moment.  It is forgotten here, all of it.  This is a tragedy.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Drama