I inadvertently helped myself enjoy this movie by shoving it in front of the P. Jackson LOTR movies on my watchlist. I knew the live-action ones were coming and had worked up a real hankering to re-experience the story they were telling. That appetite made this a lot easier to digest for me as the rotoscoping was of obvious low-quality and rather offputting, but they were relatively faithful to the books and that's about all I intended to ask of this movie. It worked well in its current role of discarded relic; I can imagine being quite angry if I had eagerly anticipated this in 1978 and this was all I'd gotten, but now it can be appreciated as a quaint, courageous effort at a project that far exceeded the director's skill and budget.
They really did me a disservice by playing that Stayin' Alive song right at the beginning of the movie. They knew full well how dang catchy it was. It clouded my judgment for the rest of the movie and I came away having thoroughly enjoyed watching it. My eyeballs absorbed the scenes of Travolta & co. being unabashedly racist, all the literal rape stuff and the unnecessary rudeness, but the entire time my brain was going ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Even writing this review I have to pause and let my inner voice finish the song's chorus so that I can get back to remembering how distasteful the actual storyline of the movie was, with Travolta's character not really redeemed by merely giving away the trophy that anyone could see he hadn't earned. I would liken this movie to a spaghetti whose noodles were distractingly undercooked, but whose sauce was good enough that I finished the meal and would happily eat it again.
This was one of the first movies on my watchlist when I decided to take a tour of the 80s to watch most of the movies whose names I've heard of but I'd never seen before. Between watching this and writing the review I've come to realize that "slice of life" was apparently a big fad for this decade as there's no real three-act structure in this and it threw me off when I watched it, but now I've seen 3 or 4 more movies with a similar premise of just watching some high school kids grow up in a jumbled way that doesn't necessarily tell a specific story and can happily say that this was better than any of the Brat Pack ones I saw, hands down. The sex scene was surprisingly gratuitous but using abortion as a tone-adjustment was a nice touch, the individual performances were as excellent as everyone said they would be and the characters were interesting even though they didn't receive particularly good arcs as the movie went on. The music was good too.
I found this to be an incredibly long movie, but that's at least half my fault. I went to see it at a drive-in theater with our 2-year-old in tow because the place had a playground and a business model of showing a kid's movie first and then an adult movie past when they would likely fall asleep. It worked for about 30 minutes, but then I learned that I was supposed to keep the car engine running or else the a/c would kill my battery. The car died and managed to play sound out of the radio for about 10 more minutes before we were stuck listening to the last ~hour of the movie through a distant speaker while we sweat in the car and the kid became fussy. Granted, I had went into this expecting a brisk experience since the first Space Jam had came in under 90 minutes; I didn't know this was almost 2 hours long when we started. Anyway, Bron's acting was no better than Jordan's was but there was a lot more obfuscation available with the improvements in animation over the last 25 years. There was far less comedy and I didn't like any of the videogame aspect at all; they treated this like a remake rather than a sequel, but didn't respect the original enough to realize what had worked well the first time. It wasn't a complete waste of time, and it wasn't the worst sequel to a beloved original I've seen (that would be Zoolander 2), but the room for improvement was massive here.
This is one of few movies I've seen where I really enjoyed the near-constant narration. It comes off less like a lazy method of moving the plot forward when it's for a low-budget movie and they framed the narrative as though it was being read out of an autobiography, plus her voice was nice on the ears. The movie avoids greatness for me by not focusing on any of Dorothy's triumphs in an effort to maintain the desired mood, taking away any potential climactic scenes to build what ends up being two hours worth of exposition around. It was still an enjoyable experience for me, and I'm glad to have seen it!