Saturday Night Fever is more of a time capsule than a movie. The characters don't so much tell a story as they simply exist in it. It so perfectly captured late 1970's America, that it had once been the 12th highest grossing movie of all time.
The filmmakers here must have never seen the original. Everything that made Fever what is was is gone here. Sure John Travolta returns, but he's bears no resemblence to the Tony Manero of the previous film. Not in attitude, and certainly not physically. One a pencil thin, polyester wearing street punk, he's been tranformed into ripped abs, loincloth wearing Tarzan who leaps around the stage in hopes of becoming a Broadway dancer.
Should the blame be placed on writer/director Sylvester Stallone? That's right...Stallone. No. In fact, the blame should be placed on Travolta. As history tells it, after seeing Rocky III, Travolta demanded the studio pursue Sly to helm the sequel to what was then, his biggest box office hit. Without Travolta, there would be no sequel. The studio agreed, made Stallone the offer...and there you are.
Staying Alive is typical of the 80's sequel. All style, no substance. The "story" exists only to string together several flashy, fog filled dance sequence pieced together with 80's power rock music, to create not scenes, but videos that ran endlessly on MTV. I've never seen a Broadway show, but if this is what is typical of them, I'll stick to movies.
Yet for all that, it's strangely watchable. It's like a car crash that you simply can't turn away from. Travolta tries. He flashes his million dollar smile and once in a while shows a brief flash of the things that made him a star with Fever. The two leading ladies are also fine in their limited, and stereotypical roles. Cynthia Rhodes is the long suffering girlfriend with a heart of gold, and Finola Hughes is that star dancer with a heart of ice. A love triangle ensues, but do you need a slide rule to figure out how it's going to end?
Stallone does direct with energy. As co-writer, he must've known how weak the script was, and never lets the audience go too long without another high powered dance number. It may be weak, but it's never boring.
The other thing that most seperates this from the original is the music. The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever is one of the biggest selling albums of all time. Producing four number one hits, and going platinum 15 times over, it was as much a phenomenon as the movie, and made The Bee Gees the biggest band in the world. This movie has songs by....Frank Stallone. Oh sure the The Bee Gees throw one or two new songs in there, but this soundtrack is all about nepetism, and the slightly more clearly talking Stallone brother gets his 15 minutes.
Is it the worst sequel ever made? Despite what many critics think, no it isn't. However this is the last movie in the world for anyone who ranks Saturday Night Fever as one of their favorite movies. For everyone else, it's a harmless way to kill 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon if there's nothing else on tv but golf. Hey...that's what I did.