“Gotti” starring John Travolta is just as bad as you might imagine, and then some. I can’t say I blame director Kevin Connolly, who took over from a long series of unfortunate incidents that led to this production. Connolly was hamstrung by Travolta, by a really grossly bad script, and a series of producers some of whom had criminal records.
Last night’s premiere of “Gotti” was entertaining more for the celebrities who showed up: Regis and Joy Philbin, Susan Lucci and husband Helmut Huber, former police commissioner Ray Kelly and his wife Veronica, and their broadcaster son Greg among them.
I don’t know what those people thought of “Gotti,” but in our packed overflow screening room, many in the audience fled the theater before the movie was over. (My friend said, “It’s late, maybe they were hungry.”)
“Gotti” has around 28 producers and looks like the all you can eat buffet version of a gourmet Martin Scorsese movie. You only realize how amazing James Gandolfini was in “The Sopranos” by watching Travolta act with his chin, the same way he portrayed Robert Shapiro in the “OJ” mini series. Between Travolta and real life wife Kelly Preston, who plays Mrs. Gotti, the movie is like an infomercial for wigs. (The only person they were missing was Joyce Bouffant– that’s a joke. Get it?) I guess Scientology is like the Mafia, so the Travoltas know their material.
Much of “Gotti” is Travolta acting against himself, although sometimes in scenes he has the kid playing John Gotti Jr, Spencer Rocco Lofranco– who acts as if in another movie, maybe on Lifetime. The screenplay is so bad that there’s no sympathy or interest in anyone else, although I did kind of like the supporting work of Pruitt Taylor Vince, Stacey Keach, and Chris Mulkey. Like director Connolly, they made their best effort.
At some point in the PR for this film, there was a lot made of Travolta’s daughter Ella being cast. But she’s not in credits and not on screen. I have no idea what happened there.
The movie’s entire goal is to exonerate, absolve, or explain the life of John Gotti Jr., who gave up the mob and walked away in exchange for his freedom. The thing is, I’ve meet him recently a few times, and Mr. Gotti Jr. is totally affable and extremely friendly. The movie is based on his book, and I can’t tell if he’s totally happy with it. But his father is dead, and he’s trying to live his life.
But the obstacle is that his father was a vicious animal. We can’t get around that. All the people who worked for him were no better. The fact that Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi wrote a non existent screenplay about these hideous people doesn’t help. It jumps back and forth, there’s no way of knowing what’s going on, where we are in the time line, who’s whacking who, etc.
“Gotti” has a zero far on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d give it a 10 or 15. As a New Yorker and a fan of “The Godfather,” I dig the mob lore, the Little Italy social clubs, and the whole story of the Castellano hit at Sparks Steak House– but as fiction, not as real life. But the gratuitous violence– hey this stuff really happened, and it wasn’t funny to the victims. And it’s not so funny seeing it rationalized here.
Note to John Travolta– no one buys the wigs in real life. I know you’re all Xenu and everything, but take them off already, buddy. Not doing you any favors.