We open in Heaven… seriously… where God is like “Earth is dunzo” but some angels convince him to give it another chance if a miracle happens. So God is like, “Fine, I’ll spare it if total trash human, Zack, becomes a not trash person.” The angels are sad, cause Zack is trash. Can Zack be redeemed (and perhaps even get the girl?) before it’s too late? Find out in… Two of a Kind.
How?! God is ready to dump Earth. Just trash it, cause it’s garbage. But the angels beg him to give Earth one more try. So he’s like, “Fine, if that guy over there miraculously turns out to be a good person then I won’t trash Earth.” When we look down, that person is John Travolta and we are like “shit.” That’s cause he’s Zack and he’s an inventor in debt with the mob. In order to get the money he owes he decides to rob a bank, but the teller, Debbie, has different ideas. Seeing a juicy opportunity she gives him a bag of trash and takes the money herself. Distressed and still on the run, Zack tracks down Debbie and despite being a total creeper is able to woo her and start a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, The Devil has joined the game and begins to try to mess with Zack’s journey to salvation. Things come to a head when, after a nice time out on the town together, The Devil has led the mobsters to Debbie’s apartment. Even after they escape, he has also led the police there with a tip about the bank robbery. Using the temptations of El Diablo, the police are able to get Zack to turn on Debbie. She refuses to turn on Zack and with the help of the angels is able to beat the rap. Realizing that Debbie never betrayed him, Zack has a change of heart and chases after Debbie. At the same time The Devil realizes that if Zack actually does lose and God destroys the Earth then he’s out of a job, so he orchestrates taking Debbie hostage. Realizing he’s in love Zack jumps in front of a bullet for Debbie, but miraculously survives. Thus we fulfill the requirements of the bet and Earth is saved. Hooray. THE END.
Why?! I have two readings of this film. One is that Travolta is simply a survivor. Always running and scrambling to live (and invent) another day. That’s his motivation and the distillation of his character, so when he reverses course and takes a bullet for ONJ it’s truly a miracle. That’s the way I like to read it. I do wonder, though, whether the extensive God/Devil/Heaven/Angels storyline is pointing more towards a strained Adam and Eve metaphor. That Travolta and ONJ are simply human, no better or worse, who are able to be tempted by the Devil into their bad deeds.
Who?! Once again ONJ is pretty charming and puts out some bangers for an otherwise very strange movie. Like check out Twist of Fate. Daaaaaang. I just added that to my running playlist. Otherwise, it’s notable that Gene Hackman voices God and goes uncredited. Sometimes you can get a sense of why someone goes uncredited. In contemporaneous reviews everyone appears to assume it’s because he knew the film wasn’t good and decided not to take the credit.
What?! This has one of the craziest product placements (or probably not even product placements) I can remember. When Zack and Debbie have their grand date on the town, we see them on a ferry eating a box of Chicken Delight… a major chicken franchise in the US until 1971, when a legal victory for franchisees resulted in the owner pulling out of the US, leaving the franchisees to fend for themselves. By 1983 (and onto today) there would have just been the independent franchises left. So can’t really be a product placement. Maybe the director liked Chicken Delight, or maybe they felt it gave the film an NYC feel. Fun one though.
Where?! Given my reading of the film in the Why section I think there might be a chance this is more of an NYC specific film that one might first imagine. Could it have been set in LA? Sure, but given the time period I do wonder whether the miracle-of-miracles had some more special meaning coming in the form of an NYC dweller. A man living day to day, always scrambling, surviving like a cockroach. So I’m tempted to give it an A-.
When?! Not really many clues here other than a general sense that it’s summer in the cit-ay. In particular ONJ’s roommates are a couple of jokesters dead set on getting out to Fire Island to “catch some serious rays.” They are actually pretty mean about it too, huffing and puffing about missing their train out there after having to help Debbie following the bank robbery. C-
I think somewhere deep in this film there is something that might be worthwhile. There are moments between Olivia Newton-John and Travolta where you can see a little spark and you wonder why on earth they decided to a) muddle everything up with unnecessary and boring God vs. The Devil shenanigans and b) make Travolta a trash caricature of a person. Just slim this whole thing down: Travolta is a down-on-his-luck inventor who has fallen deep into the underbelly of NYC after crossing the wrong people. In a moment of desperation he robs a bank, but is duped by an equally desperate teller. After finding each other they go on the run and rediscover their own humanity. I mean, that’s the crux of the film, and yet this very serious concept is buried under a mound of silly fluff. You don’t even get to understand Travolta’s character because it’s mostly played for a laugh. Just play into the innate charm of ONJ and Travolta and let the steamy action carry you. They did the opposite and I guess it’s kind of fun in a stupefying way. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! We’ve got Travolta! We’ve got ONJ! What more could you need or want?! Well … a script would be nice, but them’s the breaks. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – If I got one chance to look at the post of this film and guess the plot I would have never guessed “two pieces of garbage fall in love while God tries and decide whether humanity is worth saving” … huh? We couldn’t just get a meetcute between Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and call it a day? What were my expectations? I don’t know. The film looks like it is barely a movie. Or maybe more accurately it looks like a television movie masquerading as an actual film. That usually means boring, but sometimes things like Can’t Stop the Music just end up being so silly and bizarre they are kind of okay. So who knows. I wish it was a musical though.
The Good – Bit here and there involving Travola and Newton-John falling in love are pretty okay. It all comes across as a television movie, but that isn’t actually that bad, it just means it looks cheap and is a bit trite. Travolta can play a surprisingly good heel at this point in his career. He is a believable grifter piece of garbage. Actually, Newton-John does too, although her character is far far more redeemable than Travoltas. Best Bit: The romance probably, they do pair up well.
The Bad – The whole thing with God and the Devil fighting over these two people concerning the fate of the world is amateur hour. It feels like the movie does need a hook, but this ain’t it brother, even if the angels and devil are fun in their own bizarre way. Travolta is a genuine piece of trash in the film. Every time you think he’s going to turn a corner and be a little good, he ends up revealing even further depths of his garbage heart. It actually ends up sinking the film. The whole thing would be trite nonsense if he was a normal human being. But he is instead a garbage man and it becomes incredibly hard to root for his redemption. Fatal Flaw: Travolta’s character is a big ol’ pile of trash.
The BMT – This film goes into a group of bad movies which are basically television movies that were released to theaters. Maybe you can track these back to holdovers from the pre-blockbuster era or something. And Travolta obviously rockets to the top of the BMT Villains list with his character of Zack … am I joking, or am I deathly serious? Did it meet my expectations? Yeah, it is a television movie which is pretty fun. It feels like an 80s episode of Touched by an Angel or something, like a soft pilot, but somehow released to theaters. That’s fun.
Roast-radamus – A very surprising Product Placement (What?) for Chicken Delight, and I’ll let Jamie get into that a bit more. A very solid Setting as a Character (Where?) for NYC which you see in multiple montages, and Newton-John is trying to break out on Broadway. And an entry for Worst Twist (How?) for the obvious life sacrifice by Travolta at the end to save the world. Closest to Bad I think, but I could be convinced of its BMT-ness as well.
Sequel, Prequel, Remake – I might have to add BMT Crossover Episode as an official category as I’m finding those delightful recently. This time, guess who we are adding to the cast? That is right, 90’s era Steven Seagal! He’s back as Sasha Petrosevitch, and he’s been called upon by God to do deep cover in Hell to try and figure out what that rascal Beasly is up to. Naturally, Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are along for the ride as they are good friends with all of the angels and Beasly and stuff. Sasha finds out that Beasly has been trying to find out the location of a stash of combination television/VCR players that was hidden before a real bad dude died and went to hell, but the bad guy (played by Brian Cranston, remember this is the 90s) isn’t giving up the secret. Can Sasha pry the secrets to the stash (and the afterlife) before Beasly gets the loot and destroys the world economy with cheap combination television/VCR players? Find out in Three of a Kind: Full Past Dead.