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Phenomenon

Starring John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, and Robert Duvall
Directed by Jon Turteltaub


George Malley (John Travolta) is an ordinary guy, in an ordinary town, with an ordinary job. He's an average dude. Wants what most average dudes want: a pretty wife, maybe a bit more smarts--just something more. He's got prospects for the former (Kyra Sedgwick), but the latter just ain't gonna happen.

His friends all have women problems too. His best friend Nate (Forest Whitaker) has no woman at all. So George's birthday at the local bar is almost a stag affair. Then, on the empty street outside, George looks up to the skies and sees what looks like a meteor plunging down at his face.

Boom. Out like a light. The net result is a ravenous desire to read, and a total recall of everything he learns. Add to it enhanced psychic and telekinetic abilities (all with requisite and elegantly simple special effects), and you have one major transformation in a human being.

The thing is, George KNOWS he's changed, but he just wants to keep a normal life. His doctor (Robert Duvall) is astounded. Lace (Sedgwick) and Nate are a bit scared. And the rest of his friends, on the other hand, start behaving like 5-year-olds. Their alternatively inquisitive and fearful behaviors lead to one very powerful scene.

Travolta has been playing the average Joe for years, and he's got it down to a tee. His character is well rounded and fully developed. In lesser order follow Whitaker, Duvall and Sedgwick, all in a script that is clear and simple...

...until the Third Act, at which point Phenomena loses its focus.

I'm guessing here, but it is almost as if the writer of Phenomenon (Gerald DiPego) was too aware of previous films dealing with similar transformations (Charley and Resurrection), and did his best to avoid coming off like a clone. Many of the elements that made those films work managed to find their way into this script. A lot of people (medical, educational, government people) want their piece of George, and he doesn't want anything to do with 'em. Supporting characters change emotional direction radically. There's a lot more, but I won't give it away. Phenomenon is a better than average flick. The script opens up a lot of story doors and, in trying to wrap up every loose end, the "mystery" is lost.

There's a lot of positive things to be said about Phenomenon. The performances are fine and the first two thirds of the script is kind and gentle, and very enjoyable. Then, you either buy where the story goes or you don't.

I've said many times that I'm no sucker for romances, and a very sweet, simple romance is what Phenomenon really is. The women sitting around me were gushing like broken wetworks. Translation? Phenomenon is a great date move. Capital "G."

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Phenomenon, he would have paid . . .

$6.00

Now if only I could get a date . . .

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