(out of 5)
Being cool is the one thing you don’t need to tell John Travolta to be, especially not in the one role that has suited him more than any other he’s ever played. Finding a script worthy of Barry Sonnenfeld’s magnificent Get Shorty, however, is another challenge. In this continuation to the great 1995 comedy based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, former mob shylock turned film producer Chili Palmer (Travolta) is finding himself becoming disenchanted with the movie business, particularly after having been forced to make a sequel to his own movie that he didn’t feel needed to be continued. When his music label-owning friend (James Woods) is killed in a mafia hit, it gives Chili the impetus to help the deceased’s widow (Uma Thurman) clean up the financial messes her husband left behind, and in doing so, get into the music business as a producer. Complicating matters is a vast assortment of wannabes and lowlives, the kinds of characters that Leonard writes so well, who are all after their own pieces of the pie that Woods left in his tracks, and none of them are above killing to get it. A terrific ensemble cast and fantastic soundtrack, highlighted by kickass live performances by Aerosmith and Black-Eyed Peas collaborating with Sergio Mendes, will keep you in your seat without complaint, but the screenplay ends hastily and ruins the wonderful buildup that the plot had been spinning so well for two hours. Screenwriter Peter Steinfeld (whose credits include such stunning hits as Analyze That and Drowning Mona) is no Scott Frank, and his script dumbs down the classy original in an obvious effort to appeal to younger viewers than the last one did, leaving a cast of more characters than he knows what to do with. Thurman looks eye-poppingly gorgeous, and once again enjoys a dance number with her Pulp Fiction co-star, while Travolta (who enjoys such great chemistry with this lady) rules the screen every step of the way. Also in the mix are Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, devastatingly funny as a gay bodyguard who wants to be a movie star, Christina Milian as a singer whom Palmer believes in, Cedric the Entertainer as a music producer with as many violent tendencies as tender emotions for his private school daughter, and Danny DeVito reprising his role as movie star Martin Weir. Rene Russo is sorely missing, as are the roles played by Gene Hackman and Bette Midler, but otherwise this is a passable, if not in any way definitive, follow-up to a great movie.
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Cinematography by Jeffrey L. Kimball
Music by John Powell
Production Design by Michael Corenblith
Film Editing by Sheldon Kahn