Two of a Kind (1983) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for some violence, sensuality, and some language
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Charles Durning, Oliver Reed, Scatman Cruthers, Bernice Straight, Richard Bright, Vincent Bufano, Ernie Hudson, Gene Hackman (voice), Kathy Bates (cameo)
Director: John Herzfeld
Screenplay: John Herzfeld
Review published May 3, 2005
Two of a Kind has only one selling point: it reunites the popular team of Olivia Newton-John (Xanadu) and John Travolta (Get Shorty, Phenomenon), who ignited the screen in the mega-popular 1978 smash, Grease. While the two do work well together, they are stuck in the middle of a truly asinine idea for a movie, written and directed by John Herzfeld (2 Days in the Valley, The Death and Life of Bobby Z), whereby the two bubble-headed would-be lovers must put their heads together (when they aren't bumping uglies) to find a way to gain the loot needed to keep Zack from getting his ears sliced off by the mob muscle. Be careful not to keep sharp objects around, or you may find yourself slicing your own ears and eyes out to keep yourself from having to endure anymore of this travesty than you really have to.
God (voiced by Gene Hackman, although he never appears onscreen) returns from his vacation (what does this say for Heaven if God needs to get away from it to relax?) only to want to "reboot" the world and start over again. Four angels, who watched over things while God was away, plead with him not to do it, and soon a wager is held between God and the angels to find one good person. The person randomly chosen is a down-and-out inventor named Zack, who is about to rob a bank in order to pay back some unsavory underworld types. He chooses an attractive bank teller named Debbie (Newton-John) to hold at gunpoint, and tells her to place the money in a bag. Apparently Debbie is hard up for man-action because when she hands him the bag, she writes her phone number on it and tells him she's single. Guess what happens when Zack finds that the bag doesn't contain his much-needed cash and that Debbie has apparently stolen the money for herself?
Maybe I wasn't paying as much attention as I should (who can blame me?), but it appeared to me that the main premise of the film, i.e. the bet between God and his angels, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and changes on a whim. First God asks for them to show him one good human, which they do a couple of times, but then they discard for budding lowlife Zack. Then the bet changes, no longer about finding a good human, but that a bad human can reform, and he is given a week to do it. Why such a short time limit among beings that have all eternity at their disposal? Sometime later, the bet is no longer about reform, but that Zack has to perform some sort of miraculous selfless act for Debbie, and for some odd reason, Debbie must also do the same for Zack. Finally, it all boils down to whether or not Debbie and Zack will fall in love, as if the two getting it on with one another constitutes the selfless act that needs consummation, and this somehow proves the worthiness of all life on Earth. I was just waiting for the bet to get trivialized one step further by being about whether or not Zack's selfless act is to leave the toilet seat down for Debbie for the next time she wants to use the can.
Then there is the odd character of Beasley (Oliver Reed, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), who I guess is supposed to be Satan or something, because he has powers like an angel, yet he tries so desperately to throw a wrench in the works by helping God win his bet. Why the devil would really have a vested interest in seeing God succeed, I don't really understand, unless he really wanted to populate Hell with bad people immediately, and hopes the destruction of humanity will finally clear the decks and make Hell a happening place. This brings up another oddity -- why are the angels allowed to tamper with the bet, including (literally) rewinding events and changing them to favor their side? And why is turning history backwards have to be edited in the same way as the movie?
Oddly enough, Herzfeld keeps throwing progressively worse plot developments and never really getting to the one thing people probably paid money to see -- Travolta and Newton-John in a romance. This is saved until the end, and by this point we are so disenchanted by the film and their characters to the point of annoyance, if they ever lock lips the only relief we can gain is that the film looks like it will finally be over.
The romance isn't the only botch job. The comedy fares little better. Can you imagine in this day and age having to endure such trite shenanigans as a pie fight? You've been warned.
Two of a Kind is only worth watching for 80s nostalgia buffs that aren't applying good taste to their personal studies, and also for the three catchy Olivia Newton-John tracks on the soundtrack ("Twist of Fate", "Take a Chance", and " Livin' in Desperate Times"). People looking for the Travolta and Newton-John lightning to strike twice will come away sadly empty-handed, as they will find that chemistry can only exist when the characters the actors play are likeable enough for us to care whether they eventually end up together, and not due to the actors themselves, as the makers of this did think. After what this did to the careers of the stars, as well as the fans who watched everything they were in, the word "Kind" should have been removed from the title.
©2005 Vince Leo