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USA 1985
Directed by
Robert Zemeckis
116 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Back To The Future

There are few hit movies from the 1980s that have stood the test of time but Back to the Future is one of them. The result is a classic teen movie that rewards all ages with its mix of comedy, sci-fi and social comment.

At the heart of the success is Bob Gale's clever and original screenplay about a teenager, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) who accidentally travels 30 years into the past in a time-machine (a modified DeLorean) invented by his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), where he meets his high-school-age parents (Lea Thompson and Danny Glover) and finds himself entangled with them in ways that may preclude his own existence.

Zemeckis is a mainstream Hollywood director (the film is a “Steven Spielberg presents” affair) but one who delivers the required goods with intelligence (another much-loved feather in his cap would be 1994’s Forrest Gump) and he does so here as he keeps the the tone light without being lightweight.

The film works so well because whilst it is in essence a zero-to-hero adventure story, Marty’s meta-level presence introduces a rewardingly novel dimension (so to speak) to the narrative and allows Zemeckis to play with the square 1950s from a more liberal 1980s perspective and/or, contrawise, the permissive 1980s from that of the innocent 1950s. While the film pokes fun at actor Ronald Reagan as President and the jive talk and fashions of the '80s (it also uncannily looks forward to Barak Obama and is one of the first Hollywood films to feature Middle Eastern terrorists) it also charms with a pop-up book representation of 1950s small town life replete with Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), the school bully and requisite villain who, of course, will get his come-uppance.

If asked, however, most people will cite Fox as the film’s major draw-card. And rightly so. Fox was at the time the star of the No 1 television sit-com, Family Ties, and his endearingly bouncy boy-next-door persona perfectly suited the character of Marty McFly (the part had originally been given to Eric Stoltz who was replaced after six weeks) who finds himself on an incredible adventure back in time. Fox, who was twenty-four at the time but playing a seventeen year old mugs his way through the proceedings with winning enthusiasm and complete lack of self-consciousness. The film also represented a career high for Christopher Lloyd who also mugs his way amusingly through his nutty professor role. 

FYI:  The film's huge commercial success ($US385 from its theatrical release0 led to two sequels, filmed concurrently and with the same lead players. Both released in 1989, Back to the Future II made a reasonable stab at recycling the first film’s success but Back to the Future III was entirely superfluous.




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