John Travolta‘s career as of late has seen him star in a slew of mostly unprofitable films that were poorly received by critics. Looking to resurge his career once again, Travolta has decided to join director and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst on his passion project The Fanatic. The film follows Moose (Travolta), an obsessive fan of horror movies that persistently attempts to get close to his acting idol, Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). Durst’s previous two films (the latest released over a decade ago) both received a mixed reception, so the likeliness of this project being a critical success was slim to start with, and so the film proves.
The opening montage of The Fanatic prepares the audience for the level of poor quality that plays out. The montage itself is not bad, but the voice-over that accompanies it is unnecessarily clunky and signifies poor filmmaking. Rather than using the visuals to display the unpleasant side of Los Angeles, the banal dialogue spoken by the voice-over dictates this point for the audience. More uses of voice-over occur at various points in the film, and whenever it does, it is intrusive and needless, adding nothing of value to the audience’s viewing experience.
The script is another of many deficient aspects of The Fanatic. A majority of the dialogue is unoriginal, and the audience likely will have heard many similar lines before in other films. There are also many silly colloquiums spoken like, ‘I can do what I want. You’re not my mom.’ Moose also comments on one of Dubar’s screenplays at one point saying: ‘This is not a good script. He should not do it.’ Perhaps Travolta should have taken this advice himself.
The script certainly does not help the actors’ performances, forcing many of the cast to give overstated performances, including Travolta. It is clear that Moose has learning difficulties, but Travolta’s characteristics in the role are manufactured and melodramatic. It is hard to become engaged in The Fanatic because of his overly fidgety actions, and Sawa’s Dunbar is predictably arrogant, so neither character is likeable. Even the film’s supporting characters are stereotypical, including Todd (Jacob Grodnik) and Slim (James Paxton), two colleagues who frequently verbally abuse and threaten Moose. Moose’s friend Leah (Ana Golja) may appear to give the most credible performance, but even she cannot make the dialogue come across naturally.
It is clear Durst lacks experience in writing, but he also displays little understanding of how to effectively direct a film as well. The editing in many scenes is clunky, and scenes often drag on, attempting to add further character development but failing to be more than monotonous. The cancellation of the Cannes screening may have had something to do with this poor editing, as Travolta was reportedly not happy with the final cut. In any case, I doubt any further work in post-production would have improved this film.
The Fanatic is another misstep from John Travolta, but the blame is not entirely his as Fred Durst appears to have little knowledge of how to direct films. The Fanatic shows that John Travolta’s recent career outings have slipped from bad to worse, and perhaps any film he appears in now is not worth the time commitment necessary.