John Travolta: Staying Employed (part 2 of 3)
Another flop. This time, Travolta is a reporter for Rolling Stone doing a story on health clubs. On the upside, you get Jamie Lee Curtis in workout gear when she was at her hottest. On the downside, you also see Laraine Newman dressed like that as well. I like her to a degree, but I really don’t need to see her in anything tight.
I actually was torn between recapping this and Staying Alive, and I took the latter because this one is just so worthless and superficial.
The Experts (1989)
After four years off screen (he did a short piece directed by Robert Altman for the BBC in ’87, but that’s about it), Travolta was back with this lame comedy about two guys who are kidnapped by the KGB as “experts on America”. I think I caught maybe a few minutes of this on HBO in the early ‘90s. To give you an idea of how known this one is, it was released in January of 1989 on 100 screens, and made a grand total of $169,203. Even taking into account inflation, that’s still horrible.
Look Who’s Talking (1989)
Less horrible is this agreeable surprise hit with Kirstie Alley as a pregnant woman, and Travolta as the cabbie she falls for. The real star of the movie is Bruce Willis as the inner monologue of the baby, but Travolta is quite likable here. It was seen as a comeback for him, but sadly, we’ll have to wait five years before that happens for real.
Look Who’s Talking Too (1990)
One of the reasons we’ll have to wait five years is shit like this. In the sequel, our happy couple of Travolta and Alley now have two kids, the new one being a daughter whose inner thoughts are voiced by Roseanne Barr. Yeah, the real screwed up thing is that this is one of the better Roseanne appearances of the decade. Like many crummy sequels, this throws in conflict for no reason, and in general has no reason to exist. Damon Wayans and Mel Brooks also have voiceover work here, with Brooks providing the voice of a toilet. Kinda appropriate, given where Travolta’s career was at this point. We also have to endure Gilbert Gottfried on the big screen, something no decent human being should ever have to endure.
A crappy film set in 1955, where Travolta plays a rebellious music teacher in West Texas who introduces rock music to his class. I saw ads for this in 1991, and… Well, Siskel and Ebert thought it was crap, so who am I to disagree?
Eyes of an Angel / Chains of Gold (both 1991)
This is almost rock bottom for Travolta, as these two entries are limp made-for-TV movies. Unlike the ‘70s when this format could be fun, by the time 1991 rolled around, the TV movie was reserved for either TV stars with nothing better to do, or film actors who had royally screwed up their careers. I think you know which category these fall into.
Eyes of an Angel is a sappy drama revolving around a man, his daughter, and a Doberman, or something. It was released to theaters outside of the U.S., but went direct to television stateside. It got a video release when Travolta came back with Pulp Fiction.
Chains of Gold is a lame action drama that I’ve seen for sale used at one of the record stores in my area. Not interested in seeing it. l can’t imagine too many other people are, either.
Look Who’s Talking Now! (1993)
Here’s rock bottom, as an unnecessary sequel gets an even more unnecessary follow-up. This time, the kids are old enough to talk, so the inner voice routine is taken up by the family pets, with Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton as the family dogs. I don’t even want to write anything more about this fetid turd pile. It wouldn’t shock me if this movie was what prompted Kirstie Alley to start binge-eating her body weight every meal.
Phase III (1994-2000): Nice to have you back
As we all know, 1994 was a true comeback year for the man, as he appeared in Pulp Fiction and rejuvenated his career. This led to a nice stretch of five years worth of interesting projects, that at the very least were entertaining.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
I think there’s nothing more I can say about this that hasn’t been said. It’s simply one of the best movies of the ‘90s, and Tarantino’s finest work.
Get Shorty (1995)
I can say quite a bit about this though, as Travolta is at his coolest in this adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel. Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a loan shark who goes to Hollywood to collect money from a director played by Gene Hackman. He has an ambition to get into the film business, and the end result is a wonderfully entertaining comedy. Just about everything in this movie works perfectly, especially Dennis Farina, who I’ve always enjoyed. The man just knows how to play tough guys.
White Man’s Burden (1995)
An interesting idea that falls just short of the mark, this stars Travolta and Harry Belafonte in a story about race relations, only in this case, white people are the minority. It’s a compelling idea that almost works.
Broken Arrow (1996)
A fun, if not more than a little stupid action movie I covered last year. You can read all about it right here.