Welcome back, Travolta (again)
The world is falling over itself again for John Travolta, the drag-queen co-star of the new flick Hairspray. It's hard to think of many other actors out there who have had so many starts and stops to their careers as Travolta.
He first hit it big with TV's "Welcome Back, Kotter," in the late 70s. His "Vinny Barbarino" paved the way for still-creepy "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" (1976) and the still-danceable "Grease" (1977) and "Saturday Night Fever." (1978)
And wouldn't you know it: You can sorta blame the '80s for the first big drought of his career. Just take a look at his work:
Urban Cowboy (1980): "All cowboys ain't dumb. Some of 'em got smarts real good, like me." What the critics said: "It's hard to completely accept Travolta as a redneck and his Texas accent is not quite right." My take: Good music, painful accents, dated story. Overall grade: B
Blow Out (1981): "I'm trying to save our asses!" What the critics said: "Travolta gives a weighty and intense performance, despite some of the outrageous situations his character is forced to endure." My take: Most underrated movie of his early career. Overall grade: A
Staying Alive (1983): "Did you hear the way she talked? All intelligent like." What the critics said: "The characters are clichés, their lives are clichés and God knows their dialogue is clichés." My take: Strangely indulgent at times. Like the decade itself. Overall grade: D-plus.
Two of a Kind (1983): No memorable quotes -- seriously. What the critics said: "This movie should have been struck by a lightning bolt." My take: A couple decent tunes by co-star Olivia Newton-John saves this flick from being totally forgotten. Overall grade: F
Perfect (1985): "Always treat a famous person as if they're not. And a person who's not as if they were." What the critics said: "While not a horrid film by any stretch, Perfect it is not." My take: A great time-capsule of the day. Only thing missing -- more topless scenes of Jamie Lee Curtis. Grade: C
The Experts (1989): "Doesn't anyone here know how to dance?" What one IMDB.com fan said: "It's terrible, but I can never seem to stop watching it." My take: A rare chance to enjoy the icy acting talents of the beautiful Deborah Foreman ("Valley Girl"). Overall grade: C-plus.
Look Who's Talking (1989): "It's weird, isn't it? You spend the first nine months trying to get out and the rest of your life trying to get back in." What the critics said: "A role like this is beneath Travolta, but he's enormously winning in it." My take: I realize it's cute, but maybe a little too syrupy for me. Overall grade: B-minus.
Personally, I'll sit through any of Travolta's 80s movies, except "Two of a Kind." There's only so stuck in the decade a human-being can be.