3 / 5 stars
Saturday Night Fever is easily the most entertaining film in history to showcase the disco era. After that? I could call out Roller Boogie (1979) maybe, but it’s way too immature and melodramatic. Plus Linda Blair doesn’t even remove her top, something she would do with great frequency throughout the 1980s. How about the Village People film Can’t Stop The Music (1980)? Nah, way too bizarre and campy and Steve Guttenberg. Clearly, there’s a dearth of solid disco movies after the chronicles of young Tony Manero, but hang on… we’ve got a goofy, silly dance movie that anyone can dig whether they’ve lived through the 1970s or not. Thank God It’s Friday. (Click on the movie poster for a closer look.)
The film follows the basic night-in-the-life format of a variety of disco attendees in a Los Angeles dance club called The Zoo. These include a womanizing club owner (Jeff Goldblum, not too far from “forgetting his mantra” in Annie Hall), a girl looking for romance (Debra Winger), a DJ on the verge of a nervous breakdown, an angry civil servant meeting a blind date, a white-bread yuppie couple out for some fun, a dental assistant who’s a pill-popping progenitor of the rave scene, and a Latino dancing machine known simply as “The Leatherman.” But there’s some musical history here, in the form of Donna Summer as a budding singer eager to prove herself.
This movie could have been set in any era (yes, a sock hop would work), but the late 1970s pop heart makes Thank God It’s Friday a retro treat. Its soundtrack was so popular that Meet In the Lobby lead writer Norm Schrager once admitted that he owned it on 8-track.
Highlights include a performance of “Too Hot to Trot” by The Commodores (including Lionel Richie), as well as Donna Summer singing her breakout hit “Last Dance” — which won the Oscar for Best Original Song and quickly propelled her to stardom. How about that, did “Y.M.C.A” ever win an Academy Award? I didn’t think so.
Probably the last of its then-dying genre, Thank God It’s Friday remains fun for its time and setting without reaching the enormous heights of annoyance that other movies of the era exude in spades. There are some humorous moments, though the comedy is a bit hacky, and the cast is good enough for the script and sometimes appropriately over-the-top. The film’s many overlapping story lines (script by Armyan Bernstein, producer of the TV series Castle) help make this a quickly paced and entertaining slice of the 70’s. So take out those Disco Gold records, relax, and enjoy.
Movie poster courtesy IMP Awards