by Michael A Kazanjian
assistant a&e editor
Quick, someone get Quentin Tarantino’s phone number to John Travolta immediately, his career needs to be resuscitated once again. Travolta, the staple of `70s pop culture, disappeared as quickly as he came into a sea of talking baby films in the `80s and early `90s. Then, through one of the most miraculous comebacks ever witnessed, Travolta ruled again. For the first time he found himself sitting high above on the Hollywood A List. Sadly, however, the sweat hog is falling from the horse yet again.
It all started with a little film called “A Civil Action,” two and half hours of J.T. struggling with the issue of water pollution. Bomb number one. To follow things up the overly liberal scientologist spent the next two years and a sizeable amount of his checking account on his true labor of love “Battlefield Earth,” a film quickly dismissed as one the worst cinematic events in recent memory. Bomb number two. So just how does this wonder boy dig himself out of the hole? “Lucky Numbers.” Bomb number three.
Re-teaming with Director Nora Ephron (the two worked together on “Michael”) Travolta hoped to switch gears a bit. Instead of trying to go too deep with the audience he chooses now to wade in the kiddy pool. Written by Adam Resnick (former scribe for “Late Night With David Letterman”) “Lucky Numbers” is the story of Russ Richards(Travolta), a local weatherman from Harrisburg who decides to get mixed up in a lottery scam to help pay off some of his overwhelming debts. As is with every other typical film of this sort, the path is a bumpy one on the way to the bank. Lisa Kudrow plays the ball girl, Crystal, for the Pennsylvania State Lottery who gets brought into the scam with Russ and is truly the one saving grace of the entire movie. Kudrow delivers a very “un-Phoebe” like performance and is a nice supplement to Travolta’s thin acting.
Ephron, who has a directing history of stringing out hits with “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail” among others, has a hard time finding the tone of the film. What starts out as a light-hearted satirical piece soon turns into a darker, murder-by- the-minute film finally reverting back to its easy going start up point. The real problem, however, lies in the editing room. The movie tends never to focus on any one character long enough to get to know them and just when you think you might be starting to, the movie switches gears so haphazardly you’ve forgotten what you’ve just seen. The overall feel of the film follows suit throughout.
“Lucky Numbers” isn’t a complete bust though. It does have it moments and every so often Travolta flashes that million-dollar smile of his and starts to win us back slowly. Very slowly. In the meantime we’re just left sifting through failure after failure. If you really need a quick Travolta fix go rent “Pulp Fiction” and if you’re really desperate I hear he’s fabulous in “Look Who’s Talking Now.”