Of all the misguided and ill-informed movies to come out this year, The Fanatic, the newest John Travolta vehicle, tops the pack. So bizarre and out-of-touch that you can’t help but be both entertained and shocked that it even exists, this film is truly a sight to behold.
The movie follows a rabid fan obsessed with an action star who his past his prime, willing to go to any lengths in order to get an autograph, including destroying the movie star’s life. Supposedly inspired by a true experience from director/co-writer Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit fame), this film plays out in an absolutely ridiculous way. The movie feels like it exists in a hyperbolic version of Hollywood that takes all of the stereotypes involved with celebrities and fans and multiplies them by five, and as such, it is difficult to buy into the story.
The film is also wildly inconsistent with its pacing. The runtime is less than an hour and a half, but it feels much longer because the first hour feels so long. The movie seems to want to be a slow burn, but that style of thriller only works if the audience actually cares about what is happening, which is unlikely to be the case.
One of the foremost problems with the film is that every character in the movie is unlikable. It is hard to like Travolta’s character, Moose, as he is so obviously crazed and acting in the wrong. The celebrity whom he is pursuing, played by Devon Sawa, isn’t much more likable. To some extent, there is some pity for him because he has to deal with fans such as Moose, but he is also a total jerk, and as such, the audience is unlikely to care about him either. With no person with whom they can identify in the film, the audience will have little to no investment in the story.
That said, the most troubling thing about this movie is that the character Moose seems to have a mental disability of some sort, and yet the film completely ignores this. Although it is hard to figure out the factor upon which the blame should be placed between the script, the direction, or Travolta’s performance, this movie comes across as totally insensitive and tone-deaf.
Travolta does give a committed performance in his lead role, but that isn’t to say it is good. This is undeniably one of Travolta’s most over-the-top and cheesy performances to date, and while he is the only factor keeping the film afloat, it ranks among his most disappointing work. Sawa, on the other hand, seems to be phoning in his performance until the final act, by which point the movie is already too far gone.
Some questionable decisions were made on a technical level as well. For example, there are some drawings that look like they were drawn by a child included in the film with little to no explanation or purpose. Useless and mind-boggling quirks like these abound throughout the movie. The cinematography and editing aren’t even used properly to build suspense in the final act, which is a shame, because of the confined location.
The Fanatic is wrong on pretty much every level. Although it isn’t unwatchable — quite the opposite actually, as you won’t want to take your eyes off the screen — it is the very definition of a misfire. Ultimately, this film is about as logical as the characters’ actions.
The Fanatic opens in theaters on August 30 and hits VOD on September 6.