Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back!....To The Future!

Back to the Future, oh how I love thee. Michael J. Fox, you are among my top three favourite Michaels. Christopher Lloyd, you are by far my very favourite Christopher (and my second favourite Lloyd). Lea Thompson, when I was a child, I thought your Enchantment Under the Sea dress was just the little bosom flaps, and thought it was odd that someone would attend a school dance basically topless. Guy who played Biff Tannen, you've been in plenty of other projects, yet you are linked inextricably in my mind to this meat-head sociopath. Crispin Glover, you are a glorious weirdo. Delorean, you are just the coolest vehicle ever put into production. Siiiiigh.

Back to the Future was one of those childhood movies that, rewatching it in my 20s, really isn't a kids' movie at all. I had the pleasure of attending a screening this week, and it was odd to watch it with a room full of people - whole jokes got subsumed in laughter, things that I've never thought were hilarious turned out to be rollickingly funny to others, and there were surprisingly few kids in the audience. The movie has turned into a nostalgia piece for those of us born in the 1980s, and a classic on all levels, but do kids born in the 1990s and 2000s know about the genius of Marty McFly and "Dad! George! Hey, you on the bike!"? Do the children dream?

Sorry. Having moved every few years growing up, I never had the experience of running into my grade four teacher at the grocery store or having "our" library branch. Lacking physical touchstones meant my siblings and I relied on media for connection: The Lion King soundtrack, Tracy Chapman albums, Blossom, the Berenstain Bears, endless stacks of Archie comics. If I'm feeling upset and/or homesick, I can put on Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and veg out. In the same way that my mom's salmon cakes and my baby blanket are totally connected to me both today and in 1992, throwing on The Point is nearly fool-proof way to get me out of a mood.

And Back to the Future stands the test of time. Sure, it's all about time and place - Hill Valley, 1955/1985 - but it's also timelessly about falling in love, being true to yourself, and finding your way home. Sure, it might start being upsetting if you think about carefully. But Fox and Lloyd are so funny: they're both so good in the role that it's mind boggling that Eric Stoltz almost got the part. Part of Fox's charm is that he's basically playing himself (an affable charmer), and Glover's charm lies in the fact that he's acting. Hard. Lloyd is just hanging out, burbling "One-point-twenty-one jigawatts!" and being all loony mad scientist. The story is simple but fantastic - a young man accidentally goes back in time, interrupts his parents' first meeting, and needs to engage the help of a mad scientist to reunite his parents and get back to his own time - but the film has skateboard vs. car action sequences, frilly petticoats, Libyans, guitar solos, Huey Lewis, the most garish 4x4 truck I've ever seen, and "I am your density...I mean, destiny."

SOLD, right?

I'll grant that the sequels aren't wonderful: 2, while featuring a hoverboard and the famous self-lacing Nikes, is pretty damned dark, what with the father-murdering and the dystopian alternate 1985. 3 is crazy, just straight up insane: Wild West! With Doc Brown falling in l-o-v-e and a replacement to the original time-traveling Delorean that is candy-coated lunacy (spoiler alert: it's a train!). Unlike the other major '80s trilogies, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, BttF sort of goes off the rails in the last couple movies, but they're interesting to witness. And the original is so good. (Better than Star Wars. Yeah, I said it. I meant it.) And it's a blessing that Universal Studios dismantled the ride that was based on the movie, since it made a full 60% of my family lie-on-the-floor nauseous. But the movie is magic. Science fiction, comedy, romance, action, and a poop joke or two? What's not to love?

If and when I have kids, I hope they're into Marty McFly's timeline-bending escapades. It's my duty as a parent to expose them to the magic of the movie, and hope that I've spawned children who aren't total dolts. If they start wandering around shouting "Great Scott!" in their high-pitched tiny-person voices, I'll know I've done my duty.

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