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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Phenomenon

Starring: John Travolta, Kyra Sedgewick
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Rated: PG
RunTime: 124 Minutes
Release Date: July 1996
Genres: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Forest Whitaker, Jeffrey DeMunn, Robert Duvall, Richard Kiley, Brent Spiner, Vyto Ruginis, Bruce A. Young

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

After seeing a bright flash of light in the heavens, George Malley (John Travolta) turns from an average auto mechanic to an innovative horticulturist. Although there are shades of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, PHENOMENON is mainly FORREST GUMP-lite.

Other than a ridiculous FBI subplot, the film spends most of its time with a hero whose chief passion is growing extra large tomatoes and wooing the new woman in town, Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick). As you can tell, I was extremely disappointed by this show which managed to bore me silly no matter how well intentioned the plot and how earnest the acting.

On George's 37th birthday, he sees the light in the sky and after that his life is changed forever. He becomes fluent in Portuguese in 20 minutes just by reading a book. He turns into an instant chess expert. He can predict earthquakes. He can even do telekinesis and break mirrors as well. He does everything but leap over tall buildings with a single bound.

What does he do with this gift? Mainly he applies it to ways to grow bigger vegetables. Now, in the real world, this would certainly be a worthy endeavor as schools from Texas A & M to The University of California at Davis would attest. As stimulating movie making, it left my entire family bored, fidgeting in our seats, and checking our watches.

The script by Gerald Di Pego has lines that includes George's come on to Lace of, "I'd like to get my hands on your carburetor," and Lace's refusal to George of, "Your idle's too fast." My main fault with the dialog is not so much that it is trite as it is tedious. The direction by Jon Turteltaub (3 NINJAS and COOL RUNNINGS) has a glacial pace.

Although the normally excellent Forest Whitaker as George's friend Nate Pope is not given much to do in the show, the only bad acting is Sedgwick's. Sedgwick has a highly limited acting range. She is always aloof and distant. If she has ever given a decent performance, I have not seen it, and I have had the poor fortune to have viewed her in many a picture.

Travolta clearly had great fun making this film. He is bursting with joy. Although he does not demonstrate particularly strong acting, his enthusiasm for the role radiates good vibes. If the show were not so dull, his portrayal would have made the film into a classic feel good movie.

The gem of the show and the best piece of acting is done by Robert Duvall as the local town doc. When he gets angry in a bar, it is the only scene in the show that had genuine emotion. The rest of the actors operate only on an ethereal plane. The movie is never involving and is content to be nothing more than a paean to the sweetness of a man blessed with a magical gift. I will give it this. Phedon Papamichael's warm and glowing cinematography is lovely.

PHENOMENON runs quite long at 2:03. Tighter editing by Bruce Green could have improved the show dramatically. The show is rated PG, but I think PG-13 would have been much more appropriate. There are a plethora of cuss words, and none are necessary. Although the F word is not used, most of the others are. Do we really have to have Jesus Christ used as a frequent expletive in a PG show? There is no sex, nudity, or violence. I would caution parents not to take kids under say 10. We took Jeffrey (age 7) since it was rated PG. He was bored stiff as little happened for long periods of time, and he rated it "so-so." I liked some of the acting, but can not recommend it either. I give it **.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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