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Back To The Future

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Back To The Future

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rated: PG
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: July 1985
Genres: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy


*Also starring: Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jason Hervey, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Jerry Saravia review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Jerry Saravia
4 stars out of 4

Like "The Wizard of Oz," "Back to the Future" is a pop masterpiece that generations can enjoy again and again. It is enthralling, hugely entertaining, explosively funny and charming as hell. It also contains a rare Oedipal complex for a Spielberg/Zemeckis blockbuster and a final coda that still remains somewhat unsatisfying in retrospect, just like "Oz."

But first on to the specifics. "Back to the Future" stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, the aspiring teenager who would rather kiss his girlfriend and play in his rock n' roll band than attend school on time. He lives in a small town named Hill Valley where the main concern has to do with rebuilding a clock tower! His parents are nothing to write home about. Marty's father, George (Crispin Glover), is a nerd who wears oil-slicked hair and laughs in a manner that would drive anyone mad. Marty's mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), is a drunk who looks haggard and wasted - she looks like a former beauty who was ravaged by life. Then there is Marty's brother (Marc McClure) who works at a fast-food restaurant, and his heavy-set sister (Wendie Jo Sperber) who can't meet anyone special, or is not allowed to at least. Apparently, Marty's parents met by sheer luck as her father hit him with his car while Dad himself was spying on the goods. Dad's boss, Biff (Thomas Wilson), picks on him and Marty, and doesn't spare a moment to remind Marty to tell his mother, Lorraine, he said hello. There is no happiness in this household.

But the movie picks up tremendous pace as Marty's pal, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), a crazed inventor with electrified white hair, calls him to show his latest discovery, a time-travelling DeLorean! It can go from 0 to 88 miles per hour in a flash but 88 is the magic number as it transports one through time at that speed. Marty is astounded as he records all this on his video camera until the Lybians show up and kill Doc for making a nuclear bomb out of pinball machine parts! Marty runs and heads off into the DeLorean and mistakenly goes back to the year 1955! Yes, good old 1955 where he meets his parents when they were high-school teenagers!

Seeing the movie again recently, I was amazed at how much teen movies have changed since. Marty's preoccupation in this movie is to get his parents to date each other and attend a dance where they kiss so he can be born in the future! I have a sick feeling in my heart that if this movie were made today, Marty would be more concerned about having sex and discussing it with his parents than anything else. But I digress. This is not so much a teen movie as it is about teenage life in the 80's in contrast to the 50's. Teen dating, values, morals change with each passing generation but certain systems, like family, remain the same. And Marty knows that all too well, trying to preserve his own family so he and his siblings can exist.

The details are what count in "Back to the Future." As all fans of the film know, the Twin Pines Mall of 1985 becomes, through Marty's intervention, Lone Pine Mall in the alternate 1985. Marty's dietary concerns in 1985 consist of pepsi-free soda whereas in 1955, you can get a cup of black coffee for 5 cents and coca-cola comes in glass bottles. The local theatre of 1985 shows a porno film whereas in 1955, you get to see a Ronald Reagan flick. Essentially, the Hill Valley of 1955 is in pristine condition and the high school, as Marty wisecracks at one point, looks brand new. It is a time when one had to earn a date, particularly to go to a dance, and skateboards and rock and roll were still nonexistent. Marty McFly changes all that - he changes the future for all resulting in an alternate timeline.

"Back to the Future" mixes laughs, tension, action and drama in equal doses, always surprising us and keeping us in wonder every step of the way. We never know what to expect next, and the thrills and comedy keep coming at us from one scene to the next. Director Robert Zemeckis knows how to channel all the ingredients carefully (he co-wrote the script with Bob Gale) and maintain the right flow and rhythm. No scene or moment is wasted. Even a terrifically human moment, that could seem like a throwaway, where Marty teaches the young George about setting his mind on accomplishing anything, which includes socking the bully Biff, has a tenderness that shows the right balance of heart and humor. In fact, looking at the film in a more analytical approach, it really is about Marty and his relationship to his parents. Zemeckis and Gale maintain that interest throughout, including Marty's own relationship to Doc Brown whose 1955 counterpart is doing his best to get the young lad safe and sound in good old 1985.

And yet, the ending still vexes me. I suppose it is a flaw that the Zemeckis-Gale team did not see foresee but it is there. When Marty returns to 1985, it is an alternate existence where his father is a successful science-fiction novelist, his mother does not drink and plays tennis, his brother works at some firm as does his sister, yet his girlfriend remains the same (I still think there was a missed opportunity there if the girl had been someone else entirely). Marty loves his new life, and make no mistake, it is a new one where he takes pride on his new truck and loves his parents for having changed from their original existence. And that is just it. What about the parents Marty had? Yes, one was a slob and the other a drunk, but should he not love them the same way regardless? Those people will never exist...so is Marty still the same? One wonders when he arrives a bit earlier in 1985 to try to prevent Doc Brown from getting shot. Okay, he sees himself going back to 1955, and so who is that Marty? The same or different? Just wondering but I feel his love for his parents of the other 1985 should have been richer and more loving than accepting essentially new people as his parents. It is like the ending of "Wizard of Oz," an ending that has always bugged me as well, where Dorothy returns to the dour, sepia-toned Kansas in extreme delight uttering the famous lines, "There is no place like home." Really? As compared to the marvelous sights of the city of Oz?

But that is a minor quibble really. There is too much to love in this movie. Every scene and every line of dialogue is memorable. Marty's discovery that he really is in 1955 and is in his mother's bedroom is hilarious. The moment where he watches an old "Honeymooner's" episode that he recalls seeing in 1985 and telling Lorraine's family in 1955 that it is a rerun is priceless. Marty persuading Doc Brown of 1955 that he is from the future and that the future President is Ronald Reagan, the actor, is sidesplittingly funny! There is also the tense moment where Marty starts to disappear as he plays in Marvin Berry's band waiting for his parents to kiss so he can exist. Who can forget Marty pretending to be Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan and playing a Van Halen tape! But the Oedipal moment, an unforgettable scene in all of sci-fi and fantasy, is when Marty is forced to kiss his mother of 1955 and she says, "It felt like I was kissing my brother." It is a moment to stop time yet it is handled delicately and with polish by Zemeckis and Gale. As far as I am concerned, it is the highlight of the "Back to the Future" movies.

"Back to the Future" is fantastic entertainment from beginning to end. It brings smiles, has a great sense of fun, has lots of great ideas and excellent performances, and milks its time travel premise for all its worth. It is a definite classic for many years and generations to come, but that ending might still leave you reeling.

Copyright 2001 Jerry Saravia

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