Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 6 Beans
hat a depressing waste of an opportunity. "54" purports to give us an insider's look into legendary nightclub Studio 54, that bastion of wanton debauchery and disco from the 70s. It was full of glitz, glamor, drugs, celebrities and sex; a filmed record of those events was just aching to be made; however Writer/Director Mark Christopher botched this assignment big-time.
You see, "54" suffers from an acute case of Post-"Titanic"itis Syndrome; that's where a film that takes place in a real place or during a real historic event is dumbed down for the masses with a completely fictional love story about people who never really existed. "Titanic" at least had the good graces to have starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio, two performers who could actually act and make an audience care about their (fictional) fates. See, or better yet, don't see "Pearl Harbor" for the latest casualty. Also, since most of the real people involved in the incident were long since dead, there wasn't any real threat of a lawsuit. "54", however, gives us the thespian talents of Ryan Philippe and Neve Campbell. Quite a step down in ability is putting it mildly.
Anyway, Philippe stars as a young New Jersey kid who dreams of one day going to Studio 54. Because, after all, that was THE place to be seen circa 1978. He is immediately spotted by club owner Steve Rubell (played by Mike Myers), and, because this is a fantasy, is hired as one of the shirtless bartenders.
The rest of the movie basically involves Philippe's romance with Neve Campbell, who plays a (fictional) famous soap-opera star. There are a couple of real life events sprinkled throughout "54", such as Rubell's embezzlement and tax evasion which led to Studio 54's demise; but they are very few and far between.
See what I mean? Every major celebrity of the day went to Studio 54 at one time or another, and there are scads of juicy stories involving all sorts of decadence; however, "54" chooses to ignore the reality of Studio 54 and simply tries to involve the audience with this tiresome romance. There are also plenty of heavy-handed moralizing about the excesses of the party lifestyle, but they have the nuance of an after-school special.
Needless to say, Philippe and Campbell are just this side of atrocious. Campbell does her Neve thing, acting as if it were simply another "Scream" audition, and Philippe does his best impression of a potted plant. Albeit a very blonde and muscular one. Also giving wretched performances are Salma Hayek, Sherry Stringfield, Breckin Myer and Sela Ward; although the screenplay gives them paper thing characters with next to nothing to do. Only Mike Myers gives a performance worth mentioning, and it's quite a good one. It would have been Oscar nomination material had the movie it'd been trapped in wasn't such a washout.
If you want to get the skinny on what really happened at Studio 54, it would be more advisable to haunt E! True Hollywood Stories on cable. "54" offers nothing remotely involving or entertaining. It lacks balls and bite.
Other reviews for this movie:
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