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Paramount Studios presents
Staying Alive (1983)

"Be proud, you're dancers. You love dancing!"
- Tony Manero (John Travolta)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 17, 2002

Stars: John Travolta, Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes
Other Stars: Steve Inwood, Julie Bovasso, Frank Stallone, Charles Ward
Director: Sylvester Stallone

MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:36m:12s
Release Date: October 08, 2002
UPC: 097360130249
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-C+B- D

DVD Review

When we first met John Travolta's Tony Manero in 1977's Saturday Night Fever, he was a big fish in the little pond of the Brooklyn disco scene, and there was something genuinely appealing about his dense, narrowly focused outlook on life. In 1983, the next chapter in Manero's life was unnecessarily unleashed on an unsuspecting populace with Staying Alive, and this is quite simply a film that revels in laughably gaudy excess and cornball scenarios, culminating in the nightmarishly garish Satan's Alley dance sequence in the third act. The fact that is was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone (!), and serves as a nepotistic vehicle for a wealth of Frank Stallone songs, only adds to the silliness of this ridiculously dated film.

The premise is that Manero has moved to New York City in an attempt to become a big-time Broadway dancer. He spends his time between unsuccessful auditions as a waiter at a nightclub, as well as teaching dance at a small studio. Manero's gal pal is cute-as-a-button Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes), who is also a struggling dancer and part-time singer. The dramatic crux of the film occurs when dim-bulb Manero tries to woo flashy (but mercilessly bitchy) dancer Laura (General Hospital's Finola Hughes) and still retain a relationship with Jackie. Laura helps Manero land a small role in a big Broadway production (the aforementioned train wreck called Satan's Alley), and the fact that Jackie is part of the same show adds to the dramatic sparks, or so it was intended, I imagine.

There are plenty of bad 1980s fashions on display here, from bad hairstyles to colorful leg warmers and headbands to those weird Michael Jackson Thriller-era leather jackets. The big dance sequence features Bob Mackie-designed outfits, and if that doesn't signify gaudy '80s excess, then nothing does. The costumes are hilarious, and when combined with the comical dance moves, the result is more like a horrendously bad rock video than a legitimate Broadway production. When dictatorial director Jesse (Steve Inwood) shouts "Jump, damn it, jump!" during the big dance finale, if you're not laughing hysterically then something is wrong with you.

The biggest problem with a film like this for me is that the extended dance numbers seem like a parody of other big dance numbers, and I kept expecting to hear Ian Roberts from Bring It On call for "spirit fingers" amidst the spandex-clad slo-mo leaping. The sheer lunacy of the Satan's Alley production almost makes Staying Alive worth seeing, just for the hammy fog-shrouded dance moves.

Watching Staying Alive begs the question: did we really need to see more of Tony Manero? Maybe on paper it sounded like a good idea, and maybe in some demented way even the concept seemed potentially interesting. Stallone's directing is adequate for the material, which comes across with the dramatic depth of an extended episode of Fame, peppered with a predictable love triangle sub-plot.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Staying Alive is the redheaded stepchild to its predecessor Saturday Night Fever, and the image transfer on this disc reflects that. Sure, it's a fairly clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen print, but compared to the sharp transfer on the recent release of its predecessor, this one is abysmal. Grain is abundant, and is even excessively evident on the opening Paramount logo, which is usually a bad sign for what is to follow. Colors are muted, and often bleed, while black levels are poor and turn shadows into image-devouring goblins. While graining is heavy, it really rears its ugly head during the big Satan's Alley dance numbers near the film's final 15 minutes.


Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Paramount has come through with a new 5.1 mix for Staying Alive, and sadly it offers very little in the way of improved fidelity from the accompanying 2.0 surround track. Aside from a couple of noticeable bits of imaging during one of the backstage sequences, the bulk of the 5.1 track is identical to the 2.0 mix. Rear channels are used sparingly, and both tracks have an inherent tinniness, which is accentuated by the lack of any real bottom end. Dialogue, however, is easily discernible, and presented without any hiss or distortion.

A French 2.0 stereo track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than 17 chapters and subtitles in English and Spanish, there are no extras.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

In Ghost World, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson are having a conversation about something that is "so bad it's good." Birch's character replies that "This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again," which sums up the laughable Staying Alive pretty well. It has taken a character from what is considered a classic film, and propelled him in unintentionally dull directions.

This is a really funny film; unfortunately it wasn't intended to be.


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