Mark Kermode has said a few times of this on his weekly podcast that it’s “not as funny as the title”, and frankly, I still don’t find the title even remotely funny, so aside from the fact that I always love John Cusack in anything (yes, even High Fidelity), I really didn’t expect much from this movie. I certainly didn’t expect to find that, actually, the only bad thing about the movie is the title, lol.
This is essentially Back to the Future meets Superbad, in the best way possible. On the time travel front, I’m not exaggerating when I say this is among the best of the genre, doing pretty much everything right in my opinion in addition to doing just a few things a little different. On the gross-out guy comedy front, I was careful to select Superbad in the earlier equation, because that was one of the few comedies of its kind over the past few years (and from the Apatow stable to boot) that I actually enjoyed because it actually had marginally endearing characters. I think I saw the “Unrated” edition of the movie so I can’t tell you exactly which parts but to say, this definitely goes “too far” in places but – and again it’s hard to really explain so you just have to trust my judgment – it’s done in a way that’s actually funny.
For example – I’m sure this is in any cut of the movie as it’s a huge part of the plot – one of the heroes decides to call his (in the present) ex-wife when they are back in 1986. She’s 9. He yells at her like it’s “today”, potty words and all, and it cuts to her astonished little face in bed. Later, we get the following killer exchange when this guy is having sex with another girl (the gang having decided to just enjoy themselves in the past):
Guy: [crying] “Courtney!”
Guy: [more intense] “Courtney!”
Girl: [slows] “Seriously, it’s Tara.”
Guy: “Naw, my wife.”
Girl: [stops] “You’re married?”
Guy: “No… I mean, not yet. She’s 9 right now…”
That’s probably a decent benchmark as to whether you’ll like the movie as much as I did lol… if that kind of thing is funny to you, you’ll be fine. But it’s really not all dumb/dangerous gags like this… like I said, and what surprised me most about the movie, is that it actually has just as much heart in the end as the very best of the time travel genre.
There is a wonderful character in the form of Lizzy Caplan (who I loved in 2004’s Mean Girls but I admit didn’t even recognise here). It’s what I’d call a kind of Zooey Deschanel character. She kinda “gets” that something odd is going on the minute she lays eyes on John Cusack (she’s native to 1986, the year to which they’re transported) and she runs with it almost like it’s an every day occurence. The quirky romance that blossoms between her and John Cusack is as cute to me as any love story Cusack has been involved with.
There’s a lot more to be said about this movie but I feel like I’ve lost my way in this review and I’m way behind. I will only add a little something about Chevy Chase’s part in the movie. He essentially plays the mystical old man you find in a lot of stories like this – the guy with the remote in Pleasantville, or the truck driver in Small Soldiers, come to mind – and he’s written very tongue in cheek. The thing is, he’s seriously funny, almost brilliant, and considering I thought Chase had pretty much gone away, this was a seriously pleasant surprise and just one more reason to recommend the movie. I feel confident in saying no matter what you’re expecting of this movie, you will probably be just as surprised as I was.