Have you ever gotten a case of the cinematic giggles?
You know what I'm talking about?
It's the experience one has when you're watching a film that is so bad that you don't even sit there thinking to yourself "Man, this sucks."
You just start laughing. And laughing. And laughing. And laughing.
In fact, you get such a case of the cinematic giggles that your laughter actually disturbs the screening of the film. You get dirty looks from those around you, inevitably including the one person in the film who proclaims "It's the best film I've seen this year."
You make a mental note to yourself to never go to a film with that person.
Gotti is a cinematic giggle of a film. It's a film that's so godawful that I've proclaimed it "Gotti awful."
Gotti is so Gotti awful that you can't help but giggle unmercifully, silently wondering how not a single soul among the film's 40ish producers had balls to say "Um, guys, I think we might be headed the wrong direction here."
Gotti is so Gotti awful that you can't help but feel awful for Travolta, who already has a reputation for occasional epic awfulness, who actually seems to be trying here and occasionally manages to add a spark in an otherwise sparkless film.
Gotti is for John Gotti what Battlefield Earth for Scientology.
An anti-advertisment, of sorts. Ya' know?
In case you haven't guessed, the film stars Travolta as the Teflon Don, a role that seems tailor-made for an aging actor from Jersey looking for one more shot at critical acclaim or at least something resembling a meaty role.
This ain't it.
It's known that Travolta chased the making of this film for years, somehow attracted to telling the story of infamous New York crime boss John Gotti, Sr. and his son, as if it hasn't been told before in far better, far more convincing, and far more entertaining ways.
There's nothing new here. Nothing. So, it's hard to understand what made Travolta chase this obvious vanity project for years, though I suppose Battlefield Earth needed a sister project.
Gotti feels like somebody went to the Gotti and said "Yo, Gotti. We want to make this film about you!" and Gotti said back "Yo, it better not be no hatchet job. Ya' know? Otherwise, I'll hatchet job you. Ya' know what I mean?"
And so Gotti isn't a hatchet job. In fact, it's not much of anything of substance. It can't really be called a love song, though, because it's so Gotti awful that you picture Gotti in his jail cell doing the kiss of death to a picture of Travolta on the wall.
The film centers around the infamous Gambino crime family, though it plays out more like a sixth grade cultural study than it does a substantial account of the characters who comprised the family and their familial sense of ethics, responsibility, and duty.
Director Kevin Connolly, a Golden Globe-nominated actor for Entourage, can't seem to decide if he's making a television series or a straight-to-video movie, though if this film had anyone but Travolta in it we'd be talking about "Straight-to-VHS."
Screenwriters Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi don't even pretend to tell a cohesive story, instead ripping out pages from mafioso motion pictures past into the paint-by-numbers script that, quite literally, goes from hard workin' street kid earning a chance to charismatic up-and-comer in the mob world to power-starved mobster wanting more than his life offers to becoming the biggest badass of them all.
Travolta actually has a few decent moments here, again he appears to actually be trying to make sense of it all, with the film's amped up second half drama giving him a chance to exercise his Gotti meets Giuliani impersonation for maximum effect. Travolta doesn't even begin to salvage the film, though I suppose there's something to be said for taking the film from an F-rating to a more palatable D-.
Real life Travolta wife Kelly Preston is here as real life Gotti wife Victoria, though I can't help but think that this isn't going to be the thing that salvages their long rumored to be troubled marriage. Canadian actor Spencer Rocco Lofranco is here as Gotti, Jr., though I'm not sure why I even felt the need to mention that.
It's kind of irrelevant.
The film's music? If you're looking for period appropriate, look else. I mean, for Gotti's sake, we've got Pitbull playing in a scene that takes place in the early 80's. I'm far from a musical historian and even I noticed it.
Quite simply, Gotti feels like a desperate stretch for continued cinematic relevance by Travolta and it fails miserably, though I suppose his performance is so incredibly hammy that it may trigger a few more low-budget comedy roles. Inept in just about every way imaginable, Gotti is a Gotti awful mess of a film that you'll regret having given your nearly two hours of time.
Oh, and yeah, you'll do the cinematic giggle.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic