November 9, 2007

Underrated MOTM: Back to the Future Part II (1989)

This Underrated Movie of the Month (MOTM) is likely to stir some controversy. Let me first say that the original Back to the Future is better than both of if its sequels, and deserves its status as a contemporary classic.

Released in 1989, four years after its prequel, Back to the Future Part II was brilliantly written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, who did both for all three in the trilogy. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd once again play Marty McFly and Doc Brown, respectively, but Elizabeth Shue is Jennifer Parker in this sequel (and in
Part III). The original Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells), by the way, did not act again until 1996 after having to care for her ill mother. Anyway, Back to the Future Part II picks up where the original left off - "Where we're going, we don't need roads!" Great teaser.

Probably because I was young, and definitely because I saw it in the theater, Back to the Future was a lot of fun to watch. Turns out though, I still smile and put down the remote when I come across it on TV. Marty McFly and Doc Emmett Brown are a great on-screen duo, and play off each other perfectly. Biff Tannen is one of the most despicable characters ever, but you just can't wait to see what's going to happen to him next. That guy, Thomas F. Wilson, did a great job in all three movies - and then became a successful TV actor. And Lea Thompson of course never received enough credit for her ageless acting as Lorraine Baines McFly.

Aside from the acting, Back to the Future II is really well-written, and it's a crying shame that Robert Zemeckis never really wrote anything else. All of the complex plot pieces fall into place, and we're presented with a future that is amusing to fantasize about. It's shocking, and funny, to think that in 1989 we were still seriously dreaming about flying cars, hoverboards, hydrowave pizzas and the Cubs winning the World Series by 2015. That' a few years. Still, the imaginative details were awesome, despite the product tie-ins for Nike, Pepsi, and USA Today. Oh, and the frightening bizarro future, or past I guess it would be, or...whatever, the Hill Valley that is lorded over by evil Biff is a great addition to the story.

You can imagine that it would have been a lot of fun to be part of this movie - cast, crew, or catering. It was ahead of its time and a rare excellent sequel to a classic original. While Back to the Future III is entertaining enough, its kind of a weak finale and it doesn't really capture the imagination or whim of Part II, where the characters get to explore an unknown world and its wild implications. Convince me otherwise...

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