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  Back to the Future Part III Time After Time
Year: 1990
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, Matt Clark, Richard Dysart, Pat Buttram, Harry Carey Jr, Dub Taylor, James Tolkan, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, Burton Gilliam, Bill McKinney, Flea
Genre: Western, Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: It is October 1955 and Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has just successfully returned teenage Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to the future after sorting out the problems of his parents' past. Only... not quite, as while Doc is celebrating on his own as the flaming tire tracks die down, Marty runs up to him and explains that it has all gone wrong again, whereupon the scientist utters "Great Scott!" and collapses in a faint. The next morning, suitably refreshed, the duo set about solving their problems, as the Doc from the future has ended up in the past of 1885 - and Marty needs to get back to 1985.

There were quite a few grumblings at the time this third part of the trilogy was released thanks to its perceived presumption that because millions of punters had shelled out to see the original Back to the Future, they would automatically do the same for a couple of sequels filmed back to back, which may well have explained the diminished returns on the studio's investment in these two movies. In Britain, it became known less for the must see finale it was supposed to be, and more for the fact that when stars Lloyd and Mary Steenburgen, who played Doc's schoolmarm love interest Clara, appeared on Terry Wogan's chat show, Lloyd barely said a word.

He didn't simply say nothing about the film, he said nothing about anything, which made potential audience wonder if the would-be blockbuster was all it was cracked up to be, but then, Lloyd was a very shy man so perhaps it was unfair to judge it by his lack of reaction, benevolent or otherwise. This was the one which sent up the Western genre more than the science fiction genre as Part II had done, and as cowboys were out of fashion by this stage, what might have looked like a nice idea on paper came across as far from as cutting edge as its predecessors. The spoofing and references were done with affection, but not exactly Blazing Saddles material - they weren't even Bob Hope in The Paleface material.

The feeling of self indulgence in a work that was largely unnecessary never really left Back to the Future Part III, but there were advantages if you were a fan already, the main one being that it flattered you that you would catch all the references to the previous two and were able to pick up on the details, as whole scenes from before were adapted to the way out West formula. Having sent Marty a letter from 1885 which informs him where he is and how he can get the DeLorean time machine working again, Doc is apparently content to stay where he is, but then Marty and the boffin's earlier version discover that mere days after that letter was sent, Doc was gunned down by Mad Dog Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson was back, putting in perhaps his best performance of the series).

Therefore McFly must head back to the Wild West to save his friend's life, and we are landed in the parody territory, not least because he meets his ancestors played by Fox and Lea Thompson, who sound as if they're doing a parody of Irish accents. Or maybe that was the best they could do? Oh well, not every star can. Anyway, after ensuring that the time machine is broken down again, producer and screenwriter Bob Gale put his mind to offering up adventures in the same vein as before, yet here, even with lives at stake, there was not that sense of urgency. It was not as if the filmmakers had grown lazy, but there was a touch of complacency about such gags as Marty adopting the alias of Clint Eastwood, and the added romantic business for Doc was sweet, but not exactly essential compared with the searing smartness of Part I, or Part II for that matter. It was a nice way to end it, but somehow not fitting enough, too marshmallow for a franchise that deserved something spikier. Music by Alan Silvestri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Robert Zemeckis  (1952 - )

American writer, director and producer of crowd pleasing movies. The first half of his career is highlighted by hits that combine broad humour with a cheerful subversion: I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Used Cars, Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future and its sequels, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Death Becomes Her.

But come the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, he grew more earnest and consequently less entertaining, although just as successful: Contact, What Lies Beneath, Cast Away and the motion capture animated efforts The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Flight, The Walk and Allied were also big productions, but failed to have the same cultural impact, while true life fantasy tale Welcome to Marwen was a flop.

With frequent writing collaborator Bob Gale, Zemeckis also scripted 1941 and Trespass. Horror TV series Tales from the Crypt was produced by him, too.

 
Review Comments (1)
Posted by:
Andrew Pragasam
Date:
27 Feb 2011
 
Blazing Saddles is funnier, but where that was satire this is gentle parody. Mel Brooks was an urbanite and genuinely disdained what he perceived to be the hypocrisy underpinning those values associated with the western genre, whereas Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale clearly have a lot of affection for the cinema of Ford, Hawks, et al. So many key scenes and plot elements here lovingly pastiche those old movies, melding them all into an appealing whole. As for those “oirish” accents, they may be less than authentic but sound not too dissimilar from the broad caricatures found in John Ford movies. It is also worth noting that Zemeckis and Gale were a little embarrassed about the unintentional “material wealth means happiness” message at the end of Part One. Part Three goes some way towards redressing this and for me, it was a worthy end to this fine series.
       


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