James Tolkan

Back to the Future Part II (1989, Robert Zemeckis)

Back to the Future Part II, while front heavy with special effects, ends up being a small picture. The first half or so deals with the sequel setup from the first movie’s finale but then Part II tells a side story set during the first film. Time travel franchises can be, it turns out, rather economical.

Unfortunately, these economies mostly just show off how Bob Gale’s creatively bankrupt script. The film is reductive, not expansive, with most of the cast wasted. Christopher Lloyd, for example, disappears for large sections, occasionally popping up for a comical line reading. Michael J. Fox and Thomas F. Wilson are the whole show and neither do well. Neither are bad, but both have all new character quirks to incorporate. These incorporations are a tad difficult… since the original film looms over this one. And not just because whole sections of the first film’s footage is reused or because the second half involves Fox acting “alongside” himself.

Gale and Zemeckis continue to waste female talent. Elisabeth Shue actually has some decent screen time in the first half, being the viewer’s entry into the future of she and Fox, but then she literally gets knocked out for the rest of the movie. Lea Thompson shows up for a few scenes, does a lot better than Shue (who mugs constantly), before evaporating.

Gone are the first film’s likable characterizations. Part II is an ugly film; nastiness is apparently easier to write. The abject lack of story is shocking.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Zemeckis; screenplay by Bob Gale, based on a story by Zemeckis and Gale; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Harry Keramidas and Arthur Schmidt; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Rick Carter; produced by Neil Canton and Gale; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly / Marty McFly Jr / Marlene McFly), Christopher Lloyd (Dr. Emmett Brown), Lea Thompson (Lorraine), Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen / Griff Tannen), Elisabeth Shue (Jennifer Parker), James Tolkan (Mr. Strickland), Jeffrey Weissman (George McFly) and Charles Fleischer (Terry).


Second Sight (1989, Joel Zwick)

There are some funny lines in Second Sight. Not many, but some. And they’re good, laugh out loud lines. It’d be hard for John Larroquette, reacting to Bronson Pinchot acting like an idiot, not to get some laughs.

The whole thing feels like a “what I did on summer hiatus” for Larroquette and Pinchot. It’s impossible not to think about their television series when watching the film, though the Boston location shooting does help. Director Zwick is rather boring, but the film’s visibly shot on location, so regardless of his inability, the film does have a fair amount of texture.

Stuart Pankin rounds out the trio–Pinchot’s the wacky guy, Larroquette’s the straight man (just like their TV shows) and Pankin’s sort of the second straight man. He’s mostly support for Pinchot, but manages to have a bigger role. Pinchot does voices, acts goofy and does manage to be funny a couple times. Larroquette’s somewhat sturdy, a character actor thrown into a leading man role. He’s competent.

What Second Sight does right (rhyme unintentional) is portray Pinchot’s psychic abilities (complete with possessions and magic) as matter-of-fact. There’s no discovery of them, they’re real and they’re acknowledged. It makes Larroquette reacting to them a lot funnier.

The movie gets a little tired when it’s handling the case (they’re private investigators) but it’s genial enough as a bland comedy. Bess Armstrong, John Schuck and Christine Estabrook are fine in supporting roles.

A better director probably would have helped a lot.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Zwick; written by Tom Schulman and Patricia Resnick; director of photography, Dana Christiaansen; edited by David Ray; music by John Morris; production designer, James L. Schoppe; produced by Mark Tarlov; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Larroquette (Wills), Bronson Pinchot (Bobby), Bess Armstrong (Sister Elizabeth), Stuart Pankin (Preston Pickett Ph.D.), John Schuck (Manoogian), James Tolkan (Coolidge), William Prince (Cardinal O’Hara), Michael Lombard (Bishop O’Linn), Christine Estabrook (Priscilla Pickett) and Marisol Massey (Maria).


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