John Travolta stars as Moose, a socially inept movie geek turned stalker in the new thriller The Fanatic. Directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, it shows what happens when a fan takes things way too far in the pursuit of having a connection with their favorite star.
Moose is obsessed with Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), a horror and action movie leading man who is past his prime. Don’t tell Moose that though, as he thinks Hunter is the be-all and end-all of actors today. Hunter is appearing at a local movie memorabilia shop where Moose hopes to have a pleasant interaction with him, but things don’t go well at all. Moose then proceeds to lurk around the actor’s house in hopes of righting that wrong. Things only escalate from there though, as Moose’s presence is not at all well received. Before too long, Moose is holding Hunter hostage in his own house, aiming to teach this Hollywood type a lesson about respecting his fans, however odd they may be.
Travolta is straight up off the wall in his characterization of Moose. With a creepy grey mullet and the awkward mannerisms of a social outcast, Moose is hard to like, despite his relatively kind heart. Most people just humor him, but he does have one friend in Ana Golja’s Leah, a low-level celebrity photographer. She treats Moose well, but even she can’t stop him when he puts his mind to teaching his favorite movie star a lesson.
Director Durst doesn’t know from restraint in his filmmaking methods. Tighter reins on Travolta’s performance might have made for a more nuanced movie, but he lets him loose on the screen. That makes for a less successful movie, but a more enjoyable one, in at least a WTF?! kind of way. Think Fatal Attraction meets The Room, minus the sex. With The Fanatic, Durst returns to feature filmmaking after a decade long hiatus. Having helmed The Longshots and The Education of Charlie Banks lo those many years ago, he shows not much improvement after his time away. His directorial talents are clearly better served by the music video form he has shown competency in, rather than feature-length narrative storytelling.
One bright spot in the film is Devon Sawa’s performance. The former early Aughts teen heartthrob has matured over the years and gives a shaded, complex performance as Hunter Dunbar, a faded movie star struggling with issues with his ex and parenting challenges. One might not take seriously the trials of the Hollywood elite, but Sawa invests his character with such depth of emotion, that you feel for him and the horrors he faces in this movie.
The Fanatic is best, or possibly only, enjoyed as an over the top, crazy movie experience. Travolta and Durst combine to take the movie past the limits of good taste to an outrageous place, where the viewer is left multiple times with his or her mouth agape at the audacity of what is transpiring onscreen. In the mold of other so bad that it’s good movies like The Room, The Fanatic may live on as a cult or midnight movie, where viewers gather to have a laugh at its expense. While not ideal, it may be the only way this movie has a life beyond its initial release, so it should be welcomed as a happy, though unintended, byproduct.
Recommended if you liked: The Room, Gotti, Gigli
FINAL GRADE: C
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