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

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BACK TO THE FUTURE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 19, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: As noted in the ‘New Movies This Week’ section on this page, the local Megaplex theater chain is showing movies for the first time since mid-March, due, of course, to the current pandemic. And since no new films are yet available, still-popular older flicks are the order of the day, including this one, the biggest hit of 1995. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on July 3, 1985.

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 too much 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.

Though later those scenes are shown to be simply a setup for a humorous payoff, 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 Lloyd, help make up for it.

Lloyd seems to have patented screen wackos ever since his definitive burned-out Vietnam veteran, Rev. 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 suspense, an unexpected romance and plenty of action, along with two brands of comedy — warm and human with wild and crazy.

The film even manages to pay a nice homage to “The Time Machine,” the 1960 movie version, by beginning with closeup 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.