Picks and Pans Review: Staying Alive

updated 08/01/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/01/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

See John strut. See John dance. See John hustle his way into the chorus of a Broadway musical. So much for plot development. In director-screenwriter Sylvester Stallone's sequel to Saturday Night Fever, variations on one basic sequence appear again and again: John Travolta makes a date with his wholesome American dancer-girlfriend, Cynthia Rhodes, gets sidetracked and snubbed by the show's snooty British star (Finola Hughes), then returns to the sweet thing, who cries a perfect tear as she takes him back. Stallone's monotonous screenplay, co-authored with Norman Wexler, who wrote Saturday Night Fever, shamelessly pillages the cliches of '40s and '50s movies: The rich are rotten, an underdog can come out on top, don't forsake your hometown roots and, most important, listen to your mother whenever you're in trouble. Surprisingly, this Stallone doesn't deliver his specialty: a nemesis for the hero. There's no villain for Travolta to vanquish and consequently no emotional catharsis in the climax. The songs, by the Bee Gees and Sly's brother Frank, keep horning in on the action; neither the characters nor the drama has any room to breathe. By contrast with Fever, the dancing is pedestrian, almost clunky. Travolta's personable and athletic performance can't begin to salvage this mess. It is a movie caught in a time warp: a slick MTV video that celebrates Eisenhower-era morality. For the Staying Alive audience, the problem is staying awake. (PG)

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