Phenomenon Blu-ray Review
When he wants to be, John Travolta can be a very charming and likeable guy. His charisma was never more evident than during a string of movies in the mid 90’s that included GET SHORTY, BROKEN ARROW, PHENOMENON and MICHAEL. But fans of Travolta point to PHENOMENON as the example of just how great Travolta can be when he’s on top of his game. Looking back on it now, PHENOMENON is clearly not a great movie, but it’s hard to ignore Travolta’s charm.
John Travolta plays George Malley, a simple mechanic that spends his days trying to get his garden to grow and pining for single mother Lace (Kyra Sedgwick). But his life is turned upside down when George sees a bright, white light as he’s stumbling out of a bar on his birthday. Suddenly, George finds that he’s starting to possess new abilities, such as being able to learn more quickly, read faster, see things clearer and oh yeah, he can now move objects with his mind. Needless to say, the townsfolk aren’t sure what to make of George’s new abilities and after he accurately predicts an earthquake, the government gets involved as well.
On the surface, PHENOMENON is a fun, sweet movie about a guy that starts to develop superhero-like abilities. But this is not a superhero film, it’s a drama about a guy changing his outlook on life. That’s where the film starts to struggle. Director Jon Turtletaub kept PHENOMENON on a superficial level and never took the time to foster the deeper themes that could have been explored in the film. Did George’s new abilities make him a better person? What did he learn about his own life? What did he learn about life in general? What does his exclusion from the town say about society? These deeper themes were sacrificed for parlor tricks, which didn’t seem to be the point of the film in the first place.
The supporting cast was also underused for the amount of talent they possessed. I lost interest quickly in Lace, mainly because she was obnoxious for the first 75% of the film. Forest Whitaker and Robert Duvall did great as Malley’s best friend and doctor respectively, but they were underused, especially in the case of Robert Duvall. As Malley’s doctor, he took a scientific approach to looking at Malley’s abilities but struggled balancing the science and his faith, which could have been much better utilized. Instead, it was passed off and barely acknowledged until Malley was admitted in the hospital. By then, the film was nearly over.
That said, whether or not you like the film depends on your opinion of John Travolta. This is 100% his film and if you don’t like him in other movies, you’re going to hate him here since he’s in virtually every frame. Personally, I think John Travolta is one of the most inconsistent actors working today, but there was a gentleness and charm to his George Malley that made PHENOMENON enjoyable. It’s not a great film by any means, but it entertains enough to make it worthwhile.
Video: I had several issues with this transfer and felt it was a letdown as far as Blu-ray transfers are concerned. The colors are very flat and at times I felt I was watching the DVD. Fans of the film will be disappointed with the lack of attention paid to this title.
Audio: The audio was also very well done.