Friday, May 9, 2008

Twist of Fate

Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, there are lots of great old movies to watch. Once in a while, though, there's an interesting, but not-so-old, movie showing up on another channel. On May 8 at 4:00 PM ET, the Fox Movie Channel is showing Two of a Kind.

The plot is fairly simple: God (unseen but voiced by Gene Hackman) comes to the conclusion that man is flawed beyond redemption, so He's going to bring all of mankind up to Heaven and start over down on Earth. Several of His angels, however, beg Him not to do this, and give them a chance to prove that humans can be redeemable. So, God picks what must be two of the most irredeemable humans out there, and expects these angels to perform some sort of miracle. Those two humans are John Travolta, playing a struggling inventor who's up to his ears in debt to loan sharks, and Olivia Newton-John, an Australian wannabe actress in New York City who, struggling to make ends meet as an actress, is working as a bank teller. Sadly, unlike their previous pairing in Grease, the two have no chemistry together here. At first, they hate each other (for all sorts of "good" reasons -- watch how they meet at a bank robbery), but you know that by the end of the movie, they're going to fall in love. And yet, it's hard to care about whether or not it's going to work out for them, and if it does, just how it does. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson and Ethel Waters were much more interesting in the somewhat similarly-plotted Cabin in the Sky.

What is much more interesing is the conflict between good and evil. God's angels are a hoot to watch, especially Beatrice Straight and Scatman Carothers. Also, there's Charles Durning, but a little more on him later. While the angels are fun, Satan's minion, played by an unctuous Oliver Reed, is even better. It's the sort of role you could imagine Jack Carson playing 35 years earlier. Reed and Durning have one of the best scenes in the movie, when Travolta, on the run in a classy hotel restaurant, is spotted by the loan sharks. Reed and Durning stop time and make it go at various speeds for everybody but the protagnoists, leading to a food fight trashing the joint, where nobody really knows what's going on. Indeed, it is Oliver Reed and the angels that save Two of a Kind from being otherwise forgettable.

There are also some songs from Olivia Newton-John, notably "Twist of Fate" and "Living in Desperate Times". If you're a an of 1980s music, you might enjoy them; if not, you'll probably find that they only serve to make the movie clearly dated as a product of the early 1980s, as does everything else in the film.

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