Tag Archives: Comedy

Movie Review: Back to the Future Part III (1990)

This time intrepid travelers Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd go way back in time as Robert Zemeckis concludes his trilogy in the Western milieu. Back to the Future Part III (B) restores charm and personality to the franchise by introducing a new love story between Lloyd and a feisty townswoman played by Mary Steenbergen. Many of the time travel tropes are still a hoot, and the director stages some delightful action sequences especially involving the series’ famed vehicle and a locomotive of the past. The film is a fun and fitting conclusion to a series that sets the standard for time travel adventures.

Movie Review: Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Director Robert Zemeckis returns to his time-hopping characters to make it a trilogy with an overly complex Back to the Future Part II (B-). Doubling down on the conventions of time travel itself, rather than exploring the emotional undertones which made the original film so special, this movie blasts both into the past and into a dystopian future to further complicate the life of its paradox-challenged protagonist, played again with relish by Michael J. Fox. While it’s neat to see the film’s iconic town besieged by futuristic conventions, the effects often look clunky and unrealistic. Jettisoning into events from the first film is more fun, mainly from the good will of seeing the familiar. This time around, the adventure excels without the resonance of the journey being all that personal. Christopher Lloyd is again a delight as the hero’s boon companion who misses most cross-generational references. The film gets points for ambition, but ultimately the art eclipses the heart.

Movie Review: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Sometimes comic timing can save the day. A ragtag romp about a duo of Valley guys who embark on time travels through history to help bring order to a world gone mad, Stephen Herek’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (B+) shouldn’t be as charming as it is. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are gleefully goofy as the likable leads whose superficial encounters via a phone booth travel vessel with the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Socrates (their pronunciation of his name rhymes with “no gates”) provide funny fish out of water vignettes. George Carlin is amusing as the buddies’ temporal concierge. The effects are cheap and some of the laughs really obvious, but it’s mainly gleeful fun, like a feature-length crowd surf. There are many more triumphant films in this genre, but the movie’s distinctively dense leads help it coast into cult status.

Movie Review: Coming to America (1988)

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Coming to America (B), directed by John Landis, is a classic fish out of water comedy with a contemporary twist. Eddie Murphy plays the naïf Prince Akeem of the fictional African country Zamunda who travels with his best friend (Arsenio Hall) to New York undercover in order to find his bride. Murphy is committed to the role as basically the straight man of the comedy but gets to unleash his inner stand-up by playing a bunch of supporting characters under clever prosthetics including the eccentric denizens of a Queens barber shop. Although there’s a through-line of a plot, it’s really a film of episodes representing varying levels of amusement. Landis does some effective world building with the exotic locations on multiple continents. Kudos to Murphy for lots of funny notions and for delivering some wry commentary amidst the madcap adventure. Ultimately there’s more lark than bite, but it’s mostly pleasant fun.

Movie Review: Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future (A+), directed by Robert Zemeckis, is a triumph of imaginative storytelling as it creates its own universe of time travel and a most unusual intersection of one man’s destiny with his family. Michael J. Fox is the charismatic lead teenager who journeys from 1985 to 1955 with the help of an obsessed scientist (played with salty delight by Christopher Lloyd) and must manipulate events so his parents (Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover) fall in love. The complication is that our hero’s mom falls for him instead, and this potentially treacly Oedipal impasse yields more incredible comedy. Everything works here: the complex theories behind the science, the nostalgic fish out of water comedy, the tender and empowering moments, the Huey Lewis music. Zemeckis is a master of raising the stakes, providing an increasingly exhilarating tale. This is a good time from start to finish.

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters_coverIvan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (B+) is a marvelous confection about four exterminators of ghastly spirits (droll Bill Murray, goofy Dan Akroyd, uber-serious Harold Ramis and straight man Ernie Hudson) who must save New York from a Pandora’s box of supernatural creatures run amok. Sigourney Weaver is a treat as a possessed love interest, playing giddily opposite Bill Murray’s clowning. Despite the overindulgence in silly special effects, the acting ensemble makes this piece work by playing it super-serious. The biggest laughs are in the reaction shots: Of course that’s a skyscraper sized marshmallow man! And why wouldn’t there be demonic animals running in the street? Leading man Murray is a superb match for this material with his dry wit a ribald rapier to the funky fleet week of ghosts on the loose. Reitman corrals his grinning brigade into hilarious territory as the ‘busters take on haunted New York!