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Caffeinated Clint – Whatever happened to Travolta?

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Why “Hairspray” will hopefully hold firm




Special : WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TRAVOLTA?
Clint hopes Hairpsray holds firm

I love John Travolta. I think “Grease” rocks; I think “Saturday Night Fever” was the bomb and “Pulp Fiction”? Well that just plain left me damp.



Thing is, Travolta’s had more chances than Tommy Lee lately and like the tattooed rocker’s wife, blows it every time (sorry!).

So where did it all go wrong for the $20 million dollar-a-movie man who seems much more interested in quality pork than quality film?

Personally, I think it went belly-up somewhere between firing his long time agent Jonathan Krane (who, by the way, never took a cent from Travolta – he was paid in the form of a credit on each of his pictures) and coming to the realisation that one can still get paid a shitload for doing, well, shit.

It’s getting to the point where you actually hear a ‘flush’ at the end of every one of Travolta’s movies these days.

In my opinion, any manager/agent that lets his ‘star’ – and lets not kid ourselves, Travolta is one of the biggest names in town – do back-to-back duds (too many to name here but lets throw a few names out there – “Battlefield Earth”, “Lucky Numbers”, “Basic”, “Swordfish”, “She’s so Lovely”) isn’t looking after their client. Krane should take some of the blame – he did, after all, sign off on Travolta doing his monstrously unsuccessful “Battlefield Earth”, didn’t he? – but his new peeps, who are seemingly doing the same job Krane ever did just with a better office to back them up and a fatter fee, should be beaten by whatever instrument Pink’s using on her boyfriend this week. Someone needs to start looking after the man.



Quentin Tarantino is ashamed of Travolta. He gave him an almost unheard of comeback with “Pulp Fiction” – which Travolta was so good in he was nominated an Oscar for his performance – but hasn’t bothered to try and get anything going with him since. Truth of the matter is, Travolta’s more interested in money than merit – he’ll agree to do anything that comes with a shit load of cash and an endless supply of hot beef sandwiches.

“Battlefield Earth” (2000), to use but one example, should have ruined his career. But the thing is, unlike say Wesley Snipes or Jean Claude Van Damme – whose films now premiere at video stores – people actually love Travolta. They do. They believe in him. He’s such a nice guy, and such a likeable presence on screen, that we keep giving him chance after chance.

So when should we stop?

I say we should’ve stopped with “Be Cool”. That, a sequel to Travolta’s very entertaining “Get Shorty” (1995), could have been the film that redeemed him in an audience’s eyes. It didn’t. Instead, he took the original and dragged it through the mud… leaving us to remember the once fab character of Chili Palmer as a well-dressed dud. If the first was the best orgasm you’ve ever had, the sequel was being glued on the pants leg… before the act has even started.

Within 90 minutes, Travolta turned a once-great performance (and character) into the kind of hammy player that might’ve played twelfth-billing in a direct-to-dvd mobster movie. I don’t know about you, but I don’t look back as fondly as I do on “Get Shorty” now either… and I should, it ain’t Barry Sonnefeld’s fault that F.Gary Gray fucked up the sequel.



And don’t get me started on “Lucky Numbers”, “Basic”, “Ladder 49” or “The Punisher”. Don’t. I’ll cry.

Granted, Travolta’s never been able to pick a good movie from a bad movie.

In 1989, after hearing that his latest film, the atrocious “The Experts”, would be going straight to video, he called the distributor to simply ask ‘Why?’. Yes, he had to ask why!. Now here’s a film that even Gary Busey wouldn’t watch… let alone be in… and Travolta had to ask why it’s not going theatrical? In his eyes, it was a masterpiece.

And have you heard about some of the movies that Travolta has passed on over the years? Have you? It’s insane – “American Gigolo”, “Splash”, “Forrest Gump”, “An Officer and a Gentlemen”… the man seriously needs help.

And thus that’s why Travolta’s the king of the duds. He does not know what makes a good movie. He also doesn’t know what works (he passed on a “Grease” reunion movie, remember? That might have worked?) Or what would put him back on top again (a Tarantino reunion, of course). Frankly, I don’t think he cares.

On the other hand, Travolta had some amazing success this year with a film called “Wild Hogs”. It’s the kind of film he was probably pushed into doing – can’t imagine him wanting to share billing with three other name actors’, nor do a kiddie comedy for Disney – by his agency, but it paid off… its one of the year’s biggest comedies. Oh, and it’s also one of his worst films. Funny that.



So what’s going to happen now?

Travolta, of course, is going to be thinking films like ‘Wild Hogs’ are the way to go.

Because that did so well, he’s going to be trying to dethrone Tim Allen as the new king of family comedy – he’s already attached to a comedy with Robin Williams called “Old Dogs” and a {groan} “Wild Hogs” sequel; both sound about as exciting as getting a rim job from Jaws (from 007) – and tries to sail with that for a while. Meantime, his credibility as an actor just sinks lower and lower. (Meantime, Tim Allen is branching out by doing some dramatic work in a new Martial arts movie from David Mamet – now that’s smart, good work Tim!).

So this means Travolta’s about to enter his “Cop and a Half” – that was Burt Reynold’s big attempt at a comeback in the early 90s – phase of his career.

Or does it?

Noticed this week that some early reviews for Travolta’s next movie “Hairspray” have started to pop up online. Firstly, good on John for taking up this role – I bet he never wanted to play a woman! But he’s done it. That’s acting! That’s taking a risk! That’s proving yourself! And look, it’s paid off, people are raving about Travolta’s performance as the portly Edna Turnblad in the film…

The Hollywood Reporter, for one, says ” Travolta doesn’t make his first appearance for another 10 minutes or so, as Tracy’s overly protective, sheltered mother, Edna, but once you get over the transformation, not to mention that disconcertingly odd accent that sounds something like a cross between Carol Channing and Cher, he wins you over. Outfitted with noticeably more curvaceous padding than predecessors Divine and Harvey Fierstein, Travolta still manages to pull off some nimble moves that are somehow reminiscent of those dancing hippos in Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.””

I look forward to it. I look forward to seeing Travolta act again. I look forward to the movie full stop.

My hope is that “Hairspray” hits big and Travolta gets wind of some these positive reviews – he hasn’t had them in a long time – and starts to gun for more of them.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing him cameo in any Terry Malick movies in the near future (he cameod in “Thin Red Line”, you may recall), but a couple more attempts at actually proving himself – for $20 million a picture you’d think he’d try a little more? – and Travolta might just be able to win us…. Me…. Back.

If, on the other hand he makes back-to-back “Wild Hogs” sequels and in between redoes “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” and “The Absent Minded Professor” fore Disney, it’s ‘up your nose with a rubber hose’.

And finally….

Words of Wisdom from Mrs Caffeinated Clint :

(A scientist who seems to be able to sum up the world – or a movie – in just a few words, whilst the rest of us feel a page review isn’t even sufficient).

“”Maybe if I was 5 years old! A guy builds a rocket to fly to space? He’s a fuckin’ dickhead” – Mrs Morris on whether or not she enjoyed Billy Bob Thornton’s last movie “The Astronauts Wife”.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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