It’s been a good long while since John Travolta was an acclaimed actor; for his last unimpeachably great screen turn you might have to reach all the way back to his lawyer drama, A Civil Action, which was 21 years ago. (And it’s time someone, anyone gave it a good re-evaluation.) But clearly someone disagrees: Last year an Oscar campaign was launched for his lead turn in Gotti, widely considered one of 2018’s worst pictures. And, like some demon annual tradition, it’s happened again, this time for the also poorly reviewed The Fanatic.
OMFG TRAVOLTA IS RUNNING FYC ADS FOR THE FANATIC (the movie with a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes). I swear to god this is not a bit. People made jokes about him doing this for Gotti last year and he actually did it asghfkj pic.twitter.com/RtPRVbeQBa
— Will Mavity (@mavericksmovies) November 13, 2019
(This ad is currently running in Deadline’s Awards Line digital magazine.)
What is The Fanatic? It’s the latest cinematic work by filmmaker Fred Durst, who sources say is also a musician who goes by the name Limp Bizkit. For his third feature as director — his first since the 2008 family football The Longshot, starring Ice Cube — Durst tells of a troubled loner, played by the onetime Tony Manero, who stalks a popular actor, played by Devon Sawa, of the first Final Destination from the year 2000.
The Fanatic was given a limited release back in August, at which point it earned a mere 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. For RogerEbert.com, critic Brian Tallerico described the film as “Rain Man meets Taxi Driver (with a nod to Eminem’s “Stan” video),” and added, with backhanded praise, that “[t]he real shame is that you can almost see the much-better movie in Travolta’s performance when a glint of Moose’s bullied, wounded existence is allowed a second in his eyes before he’s directed back to the tics and stupid plot.”
Will history vindicate Travolta? Or will the Oscar campaign improbably work, leading Travolta to earn his third Oscar nomination, competing against the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Adam Driver, Antonio Banderas, and Robert De Niro, and for a performance where he combines a bowl cut with a backpack and Hawaiian shirt, looking like he could be seamlessly spliced into Tropic Thunder? If so, it would be the shot-in-the-arm his career needs, now that he mostly does thrillers about speedboats. Good luck, the onetime Vinny Barbarino!