Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you haven’t seen ‘Back to the Future’ on the big screen, here’s your chance. The Egyptian Theater in Ogden is showing the hilarious time-travel comedy one night only, Friday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. My review was published July 3, 1985, in the Deseret News.

Forget H.G. Wells’ bulky time machine. The time machine of the future is a souped-up DeLorean.

At least that’s the case in “Back to the Future,” the Steven Spielberg movie that delivers what “The Goonies” promised. This one’s funnier, crazier and a heck of a lot more fun.

Essentially a sci-fi comedy, “Back to the Future” is another fast and furious kid-oriented romp from the Spielberg factory, but it is much more satisfying in its humor, its style and its sophistication than the more recent efforts from Amblin Productions, and parents will enjoy it as much as the kids.

“Back to the Future” was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also helmed “Romancing the Stone,” “Used Cars” and a wonderful little comedy called “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” His specialty is warm characters and quick comic action and he successfully uses the formula again in “Back to the Future.”

Michael J. Fox, who has gained popularity on TV’s “Family Ties,” is a real charmer and he stars here as a young high schooler thrust into the future in a DeLorean-cum-time machine built by wacky scientist Christopher Lloyd.

The DeLorean takes Fox back 30 years to the ’50s, and he meets his parents when they were 17 and in high school. He also meets a younger incarnation of scientist Lloyd, who tries to help Fox get back to the future and his own time. Fox becomes especially eager to do so when he accidentally fouls up the meeting between his mother and father, so it appears they won’t get together and he will never be born.


Christopher Lloyd, left, Michael J. Fox, 'Back to the Future' (1985)

If that sounds confusing don’t let it bother you — it makes sense in the context of the film. But you can’t really successfully analyze time-travel movies. It pays to just let it flow over you without thinking about it.

And “Back to the Future” is so much fun, that’s easy to do.

Besides the energy and action, including some very good special effects sequences, this film’s main asset is its sense of humor. Most of “Back to the Future” is very funny.

The film is far from perfect, however, as there are the inevitable lapses in logic, and Fox’s parents in the early scenes are such a negative stereotype they made me feel uncomfortable, especially Crispin Glover as the supremely wimpy father.

Those scenes are shown to be simply a setup for a humorous payoff but some of the early family moments are so broad and idiotic they look like they belong in an old-time melodrama. But the film gets better as it goes along, and the relationship between Fox and his friend, the crazy inventor, a wonderfully engaging performance by Christopher Lloyd, help make up for it.

Lloyd seems to have patented screen wackos ever since his definitive burned-out Vietnam veteran Reverend Jim on TV’s “Taxi.” He used to steal that show regularly and he steals “Back to the Future” with just as much aplomb.


Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox, 'Back to the Future' (1985)

Michael J. Fox is also very good and this should thrust him into a nice film career as a young leading man. Everyone else in the picture performs well, though, as mentioned above, I was occasionally uncomfortable with Crispin Glover as Fox’s father.

Zemeckis sometimes lets the joke go on too long, as with a hilarious scene that has Fox re-inventing Chuck Berry’s music. He just can’t resist going on to attempt one punchline too many. But the co-writer/director generally handles things very well, nicely blending two brands of comedy (warm and human with wild and crazy), suspense, an unexpected romance and plenty of action.

The film even manages to pay nice homage to “The Time Machine,” the 1960 movie version, by beginning with close-up views of clocks, their ticking amplified on the soundtrack.

The music is also quite good, and if you’re quick you can spot Huey Lewis in a cameo toward the beginning of the film.

Rated PG for some profanity and violence, “Back to the Future” is a delightful surprise and looks like a pretty sure bet for another Spielberg hit this summer.