Staying Alive (1983)

staying alive poster 1983 movie
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting to follow-up on the character

Doesn't achieve any sort of its own style while desperately trying for nostalgia

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Staying Alive

Studio:  RSO Records

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical/Romance

Release Date(s):  June 15, 1983

MPAA Rating:  PG

staying alive satans alley john travolta finola hughes

Wait…what the hell is this dance-musical thing about?

Tony Mareno (John Travolta) has left Brooklyn and is trying to survive in Manhattan as a professional dancer…but things aren’t going well.  Barely scraping by, Tony needs a big break and he might finally get one in the new Broadway production Satan’s Alley.  Cast as a member of the dancing chorus, Tony finds himself torn between his on-and-off girlfriend Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes) and head dancer Laura (Finola Hughes).  Will Tony’s passions ruin or wreck him as the biggest opportunity of his life arises?

Directed by Sylvester Stallone, Staying Alive is the sequel to the 1977 blockbuster Saturday Night Fever.  The movie was destroyed by critics and a moderate success.  It was nominated for Razzies for Worst Actor (Travolta), Worst New Star (Hughes), and Worst Supporting Actress (Hughes).

Saturday Night Fever is one of those movies that is bad-good.  There are parts that are awful, it is predictable, but at the same time the movie has something inspiring and fun…it also captures a moment in time.  Staying Alive gets the bad-good aspect, but the bad far outweighs the good.

staying alive jackie tony john travolta cynthia rhodes

You’re pretty pathetic…will you hook up with me again?

The problem with the movie largely is the story.  In the first movie Tony was unlikable but lots of moments of insight.  He also was flanked by other characters with other interesting stories.  Here, it is pretty much Tony and he hasn’t really grown in the seven years since he was last seen.  He’s kind of a jerk and it can’t be blamed on youthfulness…here he comes off as either completely stupid or someone who can’t recognize his faults.  While Jackie’s character is somewhat interesting (in a pathetic way), Laura’s character is shallow just like Tony…and the two shallows don’t make the movie deep.

Travolta plays the character almost identical to the character of the first film.  This is maybe both realistic and unfortunate.  It feels like in the first film that Tony is growing in his behavior.  Here he seems to backslide.  Apart from a visit to his mother (played again by Julie Bovasso), he seems to be not growing as an adult.  Finola Hughes character and performance seems to think mysterious is equal to a flat delivery.  Cynthia Rhodes isn’t bad as Cynthia but her willing to take a mental beating from Tony makes her pathetic.  The movie misses opportunities to develop the rival dancer or the director of the play.  Stallone also makes a cameo in the streets…presumably as himself from the look Tony gives him.

staying alive 1983 time to strut tony mareno john travolta time square ending

Time to Strut!!!

The movie looks ok, but also lacks the pop of the original film.  The long (and dull) dance sequence at the end of the film obviously eats up the visuals, but the rest of the movie is bland and deserted of emotion.  The only glimmer is a return to Brooklyn and a walk past the old 2001 disco.

Staying Alive is rather disappointing follow-up to an inventive film.  It is hard to watch if you enjoyed Saturday Night Fever for all its glam and goofiness.  Staying Alive desperately wants the same attention but fails to achieve it.  I think it is time for a modern follow-up to see Tony old and broken since obviously he seems to be headed down that path because he just can’t change his ways.

Related Links:

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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