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Laramie Movie Scope:

After a good start, Phenomenon gets lost

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 14, 1996 -- "Phenomenon" is a good idea for a movie, but it gets lost toward the end of the film and winds up in a muddle.

John Travolta plays George Malley, who becomes the smartest person in the world after seeing a strange light on his 34th birthday. Suddenly, Malley develops a voracious reading appetite and stops sleeping.

Malley uses his time to come up with inventions and scientific theories, but there's more. He becomes unusually sensitive to seismic vibrations and acquires the ability of telekinesis, the ability to move objects with his mind.

The part of the movie where Malley awakens to the possibilities around him is interesting, as is the love story between him and Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick), but then it loses its way when the FBI swoops in, followed by a mad scientist doctor who wants to cut Malley's head open to see why he's so smart.

These things detract from the story, as do some scenes with Robert Duvall, who plays the kindly town doctor. At times the movie comes to a halt (here's a scene we put in so that Robert Duvall can show everybody what a great actor he is!) so that Duvall can show off.

The story is similar to "Charly," a 1968 movie based on the wonderful short story by Daniel Keyes, "Flowers for Algernon." So far, nobody has gotten close to the poignancy of Keyes' story, and "Phenomenon" certainly comes up short. Some of the ideas expressed in the film are similar to those in the 1991 ecological opus, "Mindwalk."

Travolta does a very good acting job, as do Forest Whitaker, who plays his friend, Nate Pope, and Pennamin. It isn't their fault the story runs out of gas. The movie rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1996 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)