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54 (1998)
Rated R

Starring: Ryan Phillipe, Mike Myers, and Salma Hayek

Rating:
**
out of
*****

Even if I didn't know better, I'd have finished watching 54 and wondered, "What happened to the rest of the movie?" Alas, I do know that 54's director, Matt Christopher, wanted to make a different picture than the one we can now rent at the local Blockbuster. It shows.

The so-called "Walt Disney" version of the film is missing a few key elements from the original film, including a love triangle that would have made the film a heck of a lot more interesting. Instead of a racy look at one of America's decadent nightspots, the movie is a rather bland and average drama that takes place in a sanitized version of Studio 54.

Shane O'Shea (Ryan Phillipe) dreams of hanging out with the stars at Studio 54 instead of bumming around with his friends at New Jersey bars. So, he gets his friends to drive over to New York City to attempt to get in to the notoriously hard-to-get-into disco. Shane is spotted by Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell (Mike Myers), who lets him (but not his friends) into the disco.

Shane eventually gets a job at Studio 54 and strikes up a friendship with Greg (Breckin Meyer) and Anita (Salma Hayek), both of whom work at the bar as a busboy and a coat room clerk respectively. Greg shows Shane the ropes as a busboy, and explains the rules of working in as strange an atmosphere as the disco party capital of the world.

The rest of the plot deals with Shane trying to pit his naivete against the "shocking" world of Studio 54, succeeding in making a name for himself amongst the odd clientele of the club. Frankly, I don't think that the story of the fictional Shane is anywhere near as interesting as a bio-pic on Steve Rubell could have been. If a filmmaker prefers to focus on a fictional character, they should at least make him or her interesting enough to carry an audience's interest throughout the running time of the film. Shane O'Shea is no Dirk Diggler.

Mike Myers does an adequate job of portraying Steve Rubell as a complicated and somewhat fragile character. His performance isn't quite as "Oscar-worthy" as some reviewers have supposedly coined it, but it's not bad. It's nowhere near as yawn-inducing as Ryan Phillipe's Shane or as under-utilized as Salma Hayek's Anita either.

It's a shame that this story couldn't have been told as it was intended, because I believe there was a killer movie here originally. It's a sure sign that too many cooks spoil the broth when there are almost as many producers' names in the credits as there are cast members'.

Trivia: The disco-dancing grandma, Dottie, is played by Ellen Albertini Dow. You might remember her as the rapping grandma from The Wedding Singer. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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