Sci-Fi Movie Month: "Back to the Future" Review

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Young Marty McFly is trying to find his place in the world, when his peculiar friendship with "Doc" Emmett Brown ends up sending him back to the 50's, messing up history. Marty has to get his parents together and employ the help of the younger version of Doc Brown to get home to 1985.
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Sci-Fi Movie Month: "Back to the Future" Review

-- Rating: PG
Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: July 3, 1985
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Adventure/Comedy/Sci-Fi

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is your average teenager who rides a skateboard but pines after a car that his nerdy pushover father George (Crispin Glover) and mom Lorraine (Lea Thompson) can't afford to buy him. He feels trapped by his home situation because his father won't stand up for himself and his mother is obviously bitter about the fact that her glory days as a teen beauty are way back in the rearview mirror. He dreams of adventure and a better life, and he eventually gets both in "Back to the Future."

Marty's good friend, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), is the resident town kook who is always cooking up some crazy experiment that has no chance of working. Marty likes him anyways and so has no problem meeting him in a mall parking lot late one night. There, Doc shows him his greatest invention: a DeLorean that he has converted to a time machine that runs on plutonium. Marty doesn't believe him until a shady group of men in a van come looking for the plutonium, which forces Marty to take off in the car, lest he get shot by one of the men. In doing so, he accidentally leaves Doc for dead because the car takes him back to 1955.

Marty is trying to get his bearings in his new surroundings when he sees his father as a teenager standing in the middle of the street. Marty pushes him out of the way of an oncoming car that contains his mother Lorraine, who is also a teenager. This accidentally prevents his parents from meeting, which could have dire consequences down the line. Lorraine takes the unconscious Marty back to her home and promptly forms a crush on him, completely unaware that he is her future son. Once Marty wakes up, he must find his dad and get him and Lorraine to meet and fall in love, or else his whole future is in jeopardy. He quickly finds Doc Brown, thirty years younger, and devises a plan to get his parents together and get back to 1985 before he ceases to exist.

The inspiration from the film supposedly came from Bob Gale, who cowrote the film with director Robert Zemeckis and also served as one of its producers. Legend has it that Gale went through some old boxes one day and came across an old yearbook from his father's high school days. After looking through the dusty volume, he wondered if he and his dad would have been friends had Gale been a teenager around the same time. Who could have guessed that from this passing thought came a film franchise that would earn big bucks across the globe. In its initial phases, the film didn't look like it does todaypartly because the producing studio, Universal Pictures, wanted someone else in the lead and wanted certain elements changed.

The thought of anyone but Fox in the lead role sounds ludicrous today because he has become identified so much as the man who played Marty McFly. Even though he was steadily becoming famous for his role of Alex P. Keaton on the hit sitcom "Family Ties," he was still not a movie star by any stretch of the imagination. Eric Stoltz was a movie star at the time, though, and Universal wanted him in the lead. Stoltz even filmed for a couple of weeks before famously dropping out of the part citing "creative differences." Whatever those differences were, it opened the door for Zemeckis's first choice, Fox, to take the role that would change his career forever.

Many movies with sci-fi or fantasy elements in them that were produced in the 1980s haven't aged well. The special effects tend to look dated, and other aspects such as clothes and music tend to stand out quite a bit in these films. A few films manage to feel fresh and fun despite the ageing details, and "Back to the Future" is one of them. It feels more like a healthy dose of nostalgia rather than a movie that is nearly thirty years old. The movie has nostalgia, a heart-filled script, fantastic acting, screwball antics, and occasional slapstick mixed in with the comedy. That's a lot to combine in one film, but Zemeckis does it with a deft hand. The audience will enjoy each and every element of this comedy a rare film that came out at just the right time to become a part of pop culture history and made Michael J. Fox into a much-deserved movie star.

Rating: 4 out of 5