Phenomenon [1996]

Director: Jon Turteltaub, Phedon Papamichael
Stars: John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall, Jeffrey Demunn
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 123 minutes

John Travolta's should've-been-nominated-for-an-Oscar performance is the best reason to see this largely moving work, which is a little reminiscent of the novel Flowers for Algernon (basis for the film Charly). Travolta plays a mechanic who sees a bright light in the sky one night and wakes up the next morning a genius, hungry for knowledge and so smart he figures out national defense secrets in his own living room (and gets in hot water for it). The more interesting drama, however, is not with the government but with the character's longtime neighbors and friends, who come to reject him for being different. Robert Duvall gives a stirring performance as a doctor who has known the hero all his life, and Kyra Sedgwick is very good as an ambivalent love interest. If you missed this one in the theaters, then you haven't seen one of Travolta's best performances since his comeback. The DVD release presents a widescreen image, optional French soundtrack, optional Spanish subtitles, and theatrical trailer. --Tom Keogh

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