Two of a Kind (1983)

Rating:

USA. 1983.

Crew

Director/Screenplay – John Herzfeld, Producers – Roger M. Rothstein & Joe Wizan, Photography – Fred Koenekamp, Music Adaptation – Patrick Williams, Visual Effects – Introvision (Supervisor – Sam Nicholson), Special Effects Supervisor – Alan Lorimer, Production Design – Albert Brenner. Production Company – A Joe Wizan-Roger M. Rothstein Production

Cast

John Travolta (Zack Melon), Olivia Newton-John (Debbie Wylder), Charles Durning (Charlie), Oliver Reed (Beazley), Scatman Crothers (Earl), Beatrice Straight (Ruth), Vincent Bufano (Oscar), Castudo Guerra (Gonzales)


Plot

God is dismayed with the state of things on Earth and decides to eliminate humanity and start all over again. The angels beg for humanity to be given another chance so God asks them to point to one person worth saving. At random, the angels choose unemployed inventor Zack Melon. And so God decides to let His choice rest on whether Zack can prove himself. Unfortunately, Zack is on the run from debt collectors and in desperation decides to rob a bank. However, he so badly bungled the attempt that teller Debbie Wylder is able to take the money instead. Zack angrily comes after her but in the course of doing so, the two fall in love. Caught between the law and debt collectors, their fate becomes an outcome fought over by both the angels and the Devil who is determined to make sure that everything fails.


The pairing of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (1978) proved to be a smash success that became one of the iconic pop culture moments of the 1970s. On the premise that the whole world loved such a pairing, Travolta and Newton-John were brought together again for Two of a Kind. However, by 1983, the meteoric ascendency that John Travolta had found in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease had befallen a string of misfires like Moment By Moment (1978), Staying Alive (1983) and Perfect (1985) and he was well on his way to another has-been teenybop idol – at least, until Quentin Tarantino revived his career a decade later with Pulp Fiction (1994). Olivia Newton-John had even less post-Grease success with only the miserable flop of Xanadu (1980) to her name on cinema screens, although to be fair most of her focus had been as a songstress where she had had a number of hits. While the two seemed the hottest people on the planet in 1978, by 1983 the public stayed away from Two of a Kind in droves. It is equally possible however that the lameness of the vehicle they were placed in may have had something to do with that.

Two of a Kind gives the impression of having started as a double-bill pairing that the agents had cooked up – the reteaming of Travolta and Newton-John – which the filmmakers were then stuck with having to come up with a film to accompany. All that they have gone and done is recycled various plot elements from 1940s light fantasy. However, this is something that had become decidedly creaky by the 1980s – indeed, the same basic plot of God, The Devil and angels fighting over the fate of two lovers served as the basis for Second Time Lucky (1984), one of the worst films ever made, around the same time.

The details and conditions of the Heavenly bet are slung together with minimal regard. The rest of Two of a Kind is a frenetic slapstick caper comedy. Most of the material is incredibly lame. Although to Two of a Kind‘s credit, some of these scenes are occasionally quite lively. The sequence with the restaurant frozen in time as Oliver Reed gleefully rearranges trolleys beneath falling bodies, places men’s hands inside women’s bras and so on is a wonderful piece of slapstick nonsense. It makes Two of a Kind by no means actually a good film, but does at least enliven it during occasional moments.

John Travolta is okay but is lumbered with some awful material involving doorbells that bark like dogs and edible sunglasses. Olivia Newton-John is playful despite an accent that attacks her dialogue like a hatchet. The two have a dizzy spaced-out rapport that often seems so flighty it makes up in small charms what the rest of the film lacks in conviction. This only falls flat in a glaring series of innuendoes about, of all things, doorknobs. The rest of the names in the cast are slumming it through gritted teeth with the exception of Oliver Reed cast as The Devil who launches into the role of The Devil with the ripeness of a three-week old ham and appears to be having the most fun he has had in some years.

Two of a Kind was nominated for a host of Golden Raspberry Awards that year, including Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Actor and Actress Nominations for Travolta and Newton-John.

Two of a Kind was the directorial debut for John Herzfeld who has made a handful of other films including 2 Days in the Valley (1996), The Death and Life of Bobby Z (2007) and Reach Me (2014). His only other genre work was 15 Minutes (2001) about media-obsessed killers.



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