For a brief time, The Fanatic was garnering a reputation somewhat reminiscent of The Room: a bewildering, so-bad-it’s-good midnight movie. That seems to have gone away and now I know why.
The Fanatic is almost so-bad-it’s-good, but not quite, an unfortunate trend lately. Director and musician Fred Durst clearly thought he was making a good film, much like Tommy Wiseau. The difference is Durst has SOME idea about filmmaking, editing, and acting. That “some idea” doesn’t make The Fanatic any good or even competent, but it stops him just short of crafting a howler for the ages. I’m not sure which is worse, an utterly incompetent yet highly entertaining, unintentional farce like Wiseau’s disasterpiece, or a slightly competent, no less horrible miss like The Fanatic. I’ll take the former any day. As Moose (what?), John Travolta gives one of the worst performances of the year as a celebrity stalker and local nutjob of Los Angeles. With a grayish mullet, glasses, tropical T-shirts, limited vocabulary, and a habit of rocking himself back and forth like a manic-depressive or mentally-challenged person, Moose as a character is borderline irresponsible.
Travolta’s interpretation of insanity would be getting Joker-esque press were the movie at all a part of the public consciousness. Controversy materializes when people give a shit or take a thing seriously. It’s laughably difficult to take Travolta seriously as he lumbers across L.A. on a moped, snooping into homes, sniffing for photos. As the object of his fanatical obsession, Devon Sawa is entirely believable and occasionally empathetic as a B-movie star just trying to live a semi-normal life with his grade-school son. Any such moments are dulled by the outright absurdity of the plot and Travolta’s over-the-top, full-you-know-what turn. Durst somehow expects us to sympathize with Moose by film’s end and look down our nose at Sawa’s mean-spirited rejection of his most ardent fan. That simply doesn’t pass the smell test, not when his most ardent fan is crossing every line imaginable, including murder.
The Fanatic is a meaningless “examination” of the fine line between celebrity and privacy, and a completely misguided, hammy misfit movie about the Hollywood Boulevard sub-culture of street performers and bottom-feeders.