Back to the Future (1985)

(Second viewing, On DVD, May 2009) Now here’s a film that hasn’t aged a bit in nearly twenty-five (!) years. A snappy, energetic, refreshing blend of comedy with a loose science-fiction premise, Back to the Future exemplifies mid-eighties Hollywood film-making at its finest. The script is a well-oiled machine of setups and payoffs, with just enough cleverness to make it rise above the obviousness of its plotting. Michael J. Fox is the rock around which the rest of the film revolves, but there’s more than enough successful elements elsewhere (from Christopher Lloyd’s madcap Doc Brown to a surprisingly restrained turn by Crispin Glover as George Brown) to tie everything up. Perhaps the most interesting undercurrent through the entire film is the naughtiness of the subtext, not only linking the protagonist to his mother, but the suggestion that “the fifties weren’t as wholesome as you may have been told”. And yet the result remains squeaky-clean for the entire family. Sure, some of the SF elements (like the altering picture) make no sense except in script-logic. Yet the entire things feels solid and admirable even decades later: the “eighties” moments now have a historical charm, and the pacing of the result seems as fresh today than it did back then. Catch the film if you haven’t seen it, and re-watch it if it’s been a while: you may be pleasantly surprised.

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