A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fanatic is a dark comedy/thriller about a man with autism (John Travolta) who idolizes and starts stalking an actor (Devon Sawa). Expect scenes of intense violence, including a man hitting and killing a woman (her dead body and bloody face are shown), a character's fingers getting shot off by a gun, a character being stabbed in the eye (blood and gore shown), a gory magic trick (a spike shoved through someone's nose), a man shoving a woman, punching, fighting, arguing, threats, and more. Language is also strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more. A man inappropriately tries to kiss a woman; she rebuffs him. There's social drinking, and empty beer cans sit on a man's side table. The movie's unsympathetic portrayal of someone with autism may be upsetting/offensive for some viewers.
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What's the story?
In THE FANATIC, Moose (John Travolta), a horror movie fan with autism, idolizes actor Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). Moose earns money by portraying an English bobby on Hollywood Blvd. and spends all his money at a movie memorabilia shop. One night, Moose's friend Leah (Ana Golja) helps him crash a party that Hunter is supposed to be attending -- but the actor is a no-show, and Moose is rudely ejected. Then, when Hunter appears for a book signing at the memorabilia shop, he proceeds to exit out the back, for personal reasons, just as Moose's turn comes. Leah shows Moose an app that locates stars' homes, and Moose starts secretly hanging out at Hunter's house, hoping to score some autographs and get closer to his idol. But when Moose is discovered and rebuffed, it sets off a chain of violence that changes everything.
Is it any good?
Travolta throws his whole being into an extreme, torrential performance that's difficult to dismiss, but it's unfortunately at the service of a shockingly mean, ugly, shallow movie. Directed and co-written by Fred Durst (the front man for the band Limp Bizkit), The Fanatic feels like a poisonous form of revenge against any overzealous fans who may have once crossed Durst's path. And rather than actually taking the time to explore the fan-celebrity relationship, to perhaps look into an emotional void and find some understanding for it, The Fanatic simply attacks both sides of the equation while teetering on the edge of offensiveness in its portrayal of someone with autism.
Moose is depicted as childlike but also invasive, an annoyance, and capable of striking out. Yet -- despite Travolta's intense labors in the role -- none of these things is reconciled into an actual character. Durst seems to have more sympathy for Hunter; the character is shown to be a good father to his young son (except when he plays a Limp Bizkit song for him), although he's also selfish, entitled, and volatile. Both men pay a price for their encounter, and neither comes away having learned anything or benefited in any way. Then there's Leah, whose presence isn't explained (and neither is her out-of-place voice-over narration). The Fanatic is a pointless sketch, stretched out to feature length with sheer anger and nastiness.
Talk to your kids about ...
What is the movie trying to say about fandom? Have you ever been a big fan of someone famous? Have you ever met a celebrity? What was it like?
How does the movie depict autism and those who have it? Does it seem accurate? Respectful? Can you think of other movies that have taken a different approach? Is it OK for actors without autism to portray those with it?
What's the appeal of thrillers? Why do we sometimes like to be scared?
- In theaters: August 30, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 10, 2019
- Cast: John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Ana Golja
- Director: Fred Durst
- Studio: Quiver Distribution
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some strong violence, and language throughout
- Last updated: December 13, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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