Friday, April 20, 2018

Now on HBO: Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future (1985) - Directed by Robert Zemeckis; Written by Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale; Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Billy Zane.

By Kenny Howell

I hadn't see Back to the Future since I was about 9 years old. Probably about the same time the second one came out, not sure if it was before or after, but it was around the same time.

It isn't one of those nostalgic films I look back on, though I did really want those sweet glasses from the second film you got with a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. But it is looked back on high regard by the general population, so I thought it was time to revisit it when I came across it on the HBO Go app because I remember almost nothing about it.

The first impression I got is just how different big budget summer films were back in 1985. Back to the Future starts literally with clocks ticking, and little inventions working together to feed Doc's dog Einstein. It is a couple of minutes before we even get a character, Michael J. Fox's Marty who blows himself away with his own guitar jam on a giant speaker.

The film gets lost in 1980s cliches for the first bit, clumsy exposition that sets up that Marty is a rebel at his high school, he really wants a 4x4, and he loves his girl. He also just has to get his music, which Huey Lewis doesn't like even though it is his song, in front of record execs and he'll hit it big, getting different color 4x4s for every day of the week in the process. However, he will probably need to work on basic rhythm guitar which he struggles with later in the film before pulling off a very advanced guitar solo.

It isn't until Christopher Lloyd shows up that Back to the Future really takes shape. He has had years of great work, but few as more volcanicly (it's a word) fun than Doc Brown. The movie then shifts from silly 1980s high school movie to pretty clever, fun time travel movie. For those who don't know, Marty goes back to 1955 thanks to an accident and some vengeful Libyans and messes with the space time continuum a bit. He screws up the meeting of his mom and dad, which forces him to take action to make sure that they do meet. Unfortunately his dad, played by Crispin Glover, is a bit of a mess, a constantly bullied high school kid that is going to have trouble winning the favor of the super cute Lorraine (Lea Thompson). Which makes things worse is that Lorraine has eyes for Marty, which is super weird and uncomfortable at times.

Back to the Future's lasting love is because of how Zemeckis handled it. He knew that while the time travel stuff is important, it isn't the key to what makes it entertaining. It enhances what is the key, which is that it is fun. Plain and simple, this is a popcorn movie because it is a joy to watch. It's not some amazing work of art, and it never tries to be. It tries to be smart enough that you don't notice and you just have a good time. Fox and Lloyd are the perfect people to lead you through that, and the reason that this for the most part has stood the test of time.

You can watch all three of the Back to the Future films on the HBO Go or HBO Now apps.

Rating: ***

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