The Fanatic is one of the worst films of the year. It's also one of the most entertaining films of the year, albeit not in any of the ways it's trying to be. This is a hilariously awful movie that falls into that “so bad, you kind of need to see it” category. Cult classic status is practically guaranteed.
John Travolta plays a guy named Moose. Yes, Moose. You have to see Moose to believe him. He wears a backpack almost everywhere he goes. For whatever reason, he also has the world's worst haircut. It's a mullet, but completely shaved around the ears and with a weird bowl-cut thing going on in front. He looks like an adult male cosplaying as Dora the Explorer. Have a look for yourself:
Moose is never identified as having autism, but that's exactly how Travolta plays him and exactly how the film treats him. The character is obsessed with movie star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), so when he gets a chance to stand in line for an autograph, he leaps at it. As (bad) luck would have it, Hunter has to cut the event short just as it's Moose's turn for a signing. Distraught, Moose asks his paparazzi friend Leah (Ana Golja) how to find where celebrities live, then shows up outside Hunter's house. He is not warmly greeted. The next step is breaking in, and it just goes downhill from there. All this for an autograph.
The Fanatic is absolutely offensive in its portrayal of autism. The movie suggests that people who have it are unhinged and potentially dangerous. Every autism advocacy group in the country should come out and condemn it as loudly as possible. That quality is made worse because Travolta is apparently trying to emulate Nicolas Cage's acting style. He plays Moose in the biggest, broadest, most exaggerated way possible, with not a trace of subtlety. He doesn't chew the scenery, he devours it. I've been a hardcore John Travolta fan most of my life, so it pains me to say that his work here is embarrassing.
If you can believe it, the director/co-writer is Fred Durst, the leader of the rock band Limp Bizkit. What he was trying to accomplish is a mystery. If The Fanatic is supposed to be a thriller, it fails miserably. Nothing about it is suspenseful. Maybe he thought he was making a horror-comedy. After all, in one scene Moose chokes a guy while ranting about Freddy Kruger. (Wait until you see how Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies is referenced. I nearly rolled out of my seat from laughing.) There's more: Moose works as a performer on Hollywood Blvd. where, for some unknown reason, he dresses up as a British cop. This provides the genuine WTF? sight of Travolta prancing down the street screaming at tourists with an English accent.
Durst tosses in bizarre and distracting in-jokes, too. While riding in the car, Hunter asks his young son if he wants to listen to – you guessed it – Limp Bizkit. And then they actually do! Later on, there's a shot of Travolta driving a moped past the Scientology building. Obviously, these things are not accidental. Is the movie putting us on? I genuinely do not know.
The Fanatic has so many strange, inexplicable things happening that it's hard to look away from. Fred Durst has made a garbage masterpiece. As for Travolta, he had a picture last year called Gotti that was also amusingly terrible. It generated substantial interest from viewers who wanted to bask in its ineptitude. To those people, I say: The Fanatic makes Gotti look like Goodfellas.
out of four
The Fanatic is rated R for some strong violence, and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.