Staying Alive (1983) — Pulling the plug on disco

“Everybody uses everybody, don’t they?”

Justin’s rating: I’m just a small town girl on a Saturday night looking for the fight of my life

Justin’s review: 1978. Disco was all the craze, as was polyester lounge suits and butterfly collars. Saturday Night Fever rocked the world, and with it, the emerging career of Mr. John Travolta and John’s chest hair patch. But what happened the day disco died and the calendar marched on to 1983? People got legwarmers and started leaping around doing electric ballet, that’s what.

Travolta (“Tony”) is quickly learning that making an honest living from dancing like a madcap fool is harder than the ads would have you believe. He’s also depressed because he’s rejected by Michael Ironside to be part of a Broadway dance chorus, which is every little boy’s dream. That’s okay, John. Michael rejects everybody. He proposed to his wife, she accepted, and then he rejected her acceptance. That’s how it goes.

John then has a one-night stand with a British dancer who kicks him out of the room after some sweet Scientology lovin’. This doesn’t sit well, because he’s John Travolta, and because it’s a great excuse for him to become overly emotional for the next half hour, pretending as if he never heard of “one-night stands” and expects this woman to wed him. Oh, and did I mention that on the side he’s stringing along long-time faithful girlfriend Jackie as he messes around with this other girl? So John may not be our best role model, is what I’m saying.

Ergo, you have a completely unsympathetic, two-timing, spandex-clad, bunny rabbit-leaping jerk for your protagonist. Everything else has to be sublime in comparison, yes? Definitely, as long as you’re willing to overlook (a) anything remotely interesting happening in this movie, (b) dance scenes that seem like the cast members were filmed during an extreme truth-or-dare contest in which they had to dislocate limbs to win, and (c) the fact that the Bee Gees got a starring credit for their musical contributions to this movie.

Now, I’m not as much of a music buff as some, but the Bee Gees exhausted their credit the second a film exec used their most memorable disco song as the title of this film. The rest of their music sucks, heaves, blows, and rots. It’s like an entire movie scored by the Lite FM.

Directed and written by Sly Stallone, Staying Alive is Exhibit A of bad sequels. It’s not uncommon to watch this with the general thought that the filmmakers were deliberately making a quirky parody of all movies, ever. We’re supposed to really care — deeply — about the love triangle between Tony, Jackie, and British Lady. It makes it hard, then, when Jackie dumps Tony for cheating, and then rewards him by being his down-and-sweaty dancing partner until he acts slightly less of a toad and she takes him back. Guys: the single tear rolling down her cheek means you’ve worn through her defenses!

So what is this movie trying to say? I honestly have no idea. Is it a ballad to the mighty heroes of the early ’80s Spandex Movement? The formula for Kyle’s dating program? A two-hour Bee Gees music video? I need help. I need to leave this film, forever. Please, rescue me.

Didja notice?

  • Nothing says “thrill a minute” like starting your movie with ballet
  • A room full of jumping, leaping, kicking people in spandex is the scariest room to accidentally walk into
  • He does laundry in the shower while he’s showering? Ew.
  • That woman’s hair makes her look like a vampirella
  • I would be disturbed if some thin punk started dancing in a waiting room
  • It’s Frank Stallone… singing like a girl
  • You can solve any relationship problem by dancing it out
  • Sylvester Stallone bumps into Tony on the street.

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