John Travolta Gives ‘Cringe-Worthy’ Performance in ‘The Fanatic’ as Borderline Autistic Character, Critics Say

Horror-thriller directed by Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst has a 19% score on Rotten Tomatoes

Last Updated: August 30, 2019 @ 1:00 PM

It turns out that it’s not just fans who John Travolta has a problem with; critics have been pretty hard on him and his latest film “The Fanatic” too.

Travolta is getting panned once again for starring in a horror-thriller from Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst, which is an update on films like “The Fan” and “Misery.” Critics have called Durst’s character development “shallow” and Travolta’s performance as a man who may be borderline autistic everything from over-the-top to “cringe-worthy.”

“Fred Durst’s ‘The Fanatic’ hates fans. It hates actors. It hates tourists, shop owners, and servants. It really, really hates autistic people. And it hates you. It’s a movie that thinks you’re an idiot, someone who won’t see through its shallow provocations, illogical behavior, and vile misanthropy,” Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with making a film about troubled people, but there needs to be a reason to watch it beyond pointing and laughing.”

Travolta plays a man named Moose who has an intense devotion to horror movies and loves collecting movie memorabilia. His favorite actor is an action star named Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), who snubs Moose for an autograph and later gets aggressive with him when he shows up at Dunbar’s house.

However, Moose’s mental condition is never specified, and his erratic behavior and bizarre outfit and haircut that’s part-mullet and part-bowl cut, undermine the film’s story and Travolta’s performance.

“With no explanation for what the Moose’s condition is — and boy, is what Travolta doing a choice — Durst and his main star have, rather than giving us a character, merely offered up a hapless, carnival figure of laughable madness, alternately impossible and improbable,” Robert Abele said in his review for TheWrap.

“With his inexplicably choppy hairstyle and boyish speaking voice, Travolta in particular comes across like a grown man trying to imitate a first-grader,” Noel Murray said in his review for the Los Angeles Times. “It’s kind of a tin-eared spoof of fandom — or worse, of the disabled. It’s probably for the best that ‘The Fanatic’ is so terrible. If it were made with any actual care, it’d be offensive instead of just dumb.”

“The Fanatic” opens in theaters Friday and has just a 19% score on RottenTomatoes.

Check out some of the reviews for the film from around the web below.

Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

Fred Durst’s “The Fanatic” hates fans. It hates actors. It hates tourists, shop owners, and servants. It really, really hates autistic people. And it hates you. It’s a movie that thinks you’re an idiot, someone who won’t see through its shallow provocations, illogical behavior, and vile misanthropy. It’s one thing for a movie to be deadly dull or incompetently made–and this movie is both of those things, to be sure–but it descends to another level when you realize that it exists perhaps even intentionally to be nothing more than a cinematic version of an internet troll. Find the Block button for this one…There’s nothing wrong with making a film about troubled people, but there needs to be a reason to watch it beyond pointing and laughing. “The Fanatic” is a bully, a movie that knocks around the very people who made its creator millions and even the industry that pushed it into existence. This film has no entertainment value to supplement for the lack of humanity at its center.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

I’ll give Travolta this: He commits. This is not a flattering project for him, and the actor is obviously deeply invested in the material. He produced it. But he needs a director who will tell him to rein it in. Last year’s “Gotti” had eight directors, and “The Fanatic” is helmed by Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. Suffice it to say, he’s not getting the greatest of guidance. Late in the film, Moose screams “Why do you hate me?!” at Dunbar. The line might have a double meaning, with Travolta also partly yelling at the mean critics of his rocky film career. But it’s not hate, John — it’s just tough love.

Simon Abrams, NPR

Travolta’s performance, like his twitchy character, isn’t even desperate in a cruelly amusing way: When he inevitably manages to get Hunter where he wants him, Moose tries to win over his captive audience by crudely imitating movie baddies from Friday the 13th, Saw and Reservoir Dogs, as if we needed reminding that this character knows more about movies than reality. The same could be said about Durst and The Fanatic: He consistently punches down at fans who, in the relatively innocent days of the late 90’s and early 00’s, might have been encouraged by Durst’s band when they sang about “my generation” and doing things “my way,” not to mention feeling misunderstood “behind blue eyes,” and “[doing] it all for the nookie.”

Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times

With his inexplicably choppy hairstyle and boyish speaking voice, Travolta in particular comes across like a grown man trying to imitate a first-grader. It’s kind of a tin-eared spoof of fandom — or worse, of the disabled. It’s probably for the best that “The Fanatic” is so terrible. If it were made with any actual care, it’d be offensive instead of just dumb.

Glenn Kenny, The New York Times

For as much resentment as these celebrities may want to vent about their pushier fans, there’s still no excuse for the hatefulness of “The Fanatic…” This territory was more profitably explored by Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.” For that matter, it was more profitably explored in the miles-more-trashy Tony Scott movie “The Fan.” Durst has a good eye for L.A.’s seamy underbelly. But he’s also annoyingly disingenuous, as when he signals Dunbar’s regular-guy quality by having him play a Bizkit tune for his kid while out for a drive.

Katie Rife, The AV Club

Moose lives with an unnamed condition that feeds his obsession with movies and leaves him vulnerable to scammers–either an intellectual disability, something on the autism spectrum, or both. It’s hard to tell specifically, given that Travolta’s performance is constructed entirely out of loud printed shirts and acting tics lifted from a community-theater production of “Of Mice And Men.” Our movie-mad Lennie’s opening line: “I can’t talk too long, I gotta poo.”

Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post

I’ll say one thing for John Travolta’s performance in “The Fanatic,” a movie about a rabidly movie-obsessed loser who goes off the deep end when he meets — and is rebuffed by — his favorite actor: He’s committed. Adopting an awkward gait, a nervous, grating delivery, nerdy glasses and an unflattering haircut that is one part mullet, one part jarhead and one part Lloyd Christmas in “Dumb and Dumber,” the actor invests the kind of intensity in his role that suggests he’s angling for an award of some kind. Unfortunately for him, the movie — directed by Limp Bizkit frontman-turned-filmmaker Fred Durst, whose experience with a stalker-like fan is said to have inspired the film — does not live up to the extravagantly wounded ferocity with which Travolta attacks his part. It doesn’t even live up to the haircut. “The Fanatic” is a psychological thriller with no real psychological insights or particular thrills, other than the gratuitous violence with which the story climaxes.

Robert Abele, TheWrap

“The Fanatic,” however, which Durst did have a hand in writing, is a brainless, exploitative folly which gives John Travolta free rein to mine the history of cringe-worthy autism portrayals for an offensively garish Frankenstein pantomime of unhinged obsession. It ultimately suggests this side-career of Durst’s should be well and truly snuffed out…But with no explanation for what the Moose’s condition is — and boy, is what Travolta doing a choice — Durst and his main star have, rather than giving us a character, merely offered up a hapless, carnival figure of laughable madness, alternately impossible and improbable.

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