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Back To The Future Part 3

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Jeffrey Weissman, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, Matt Clark, Richard Dysart, Pat Buttram

Review by Jerry Saravia
3½ stars out of 4

After the dark overtones of "Back to the Future Part II," "Part III" (filmed back-to-back with the first sequel) returns to the lightness and simplicity of the original. It settles on the Old West as its setting and dwells on relationships rather than complicated paradoxes. No, it is not superior to the original but it is vastly entertaining and funnier than the second film.

"Part III" begins precisely where the last film left off. If you recall, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) went back to 1955, encountered his double, and tried to convince Doc Brown (the 1955 counterpart) that he needs to get back to the future. Doc faints and Marty tries to revive him. After some nifty explanations, Marty decides to go back to the Old West but he needs his time-traveling DeLorean, which of course proves unavailable. Apparently, Marty and Doc discover that Doc's 1885 counterpart died at the hands of a gunslinger over a matter of some money owed. We see the tombstone and they eventually find the Delorean left in some mine, nicely preserved. Thanks to Doc's help, Marty manages to go back to 1885, meets his Irish grandparents (played by Fox and Lea Thompson), gets shot at at a bar where he does the "moonwalk," gets nearly hanged, and meets up finally with Doc Brown who saves Marty from evil cowpokes. Lo and behold, Marty is ready to take Doc back (or forward rather) to 1985 when he sees that the DeLorean has a ruptured fuel line and thus lacks the ability to go 88 miles per hour - the necessary mileage to travel through time. Doc comes up with a brilliant plan - have the DeLorean pushed by a train going at the requisite speed. There are some funny complications such as the bridge where the train will be passing through has not been completed, the trains of that era did not necessarily go so fast, there are the gunslingers, particularly one who wants Doc's hide, and a more novel complication: Clara (Mary Steenburgen), a schoolteacher, has taken a g ander at Doc and finds that they share the same love for Jules Verne. Love at first sight, indeed, and it will cause problems for those who travel from one time period to another.

If "Part III" has a major star performance, it is Christopher Lloyd who succeeds in finding all the right notes of lunacy and lovestruck innocence in Doc Brown. He is a madman who has found his inner peace in the good Old West, a place to spend his retirement years as he indicated in "Part II." The sweet love scenes between Lloyd and Steenburgen also have the right balance of chemistry and comedy ("I've never, ever, met a man like you before," says Steenburgen).

Lloyd clearly steals the show from Michael J. Fox, who is left in the desert winds in practically a supporting role. Interestingly, McFly was lectured about life by Doc in the first two films whereas here, he helps Doc understand that love can be lost when meddling with the future and the past. I still wish the filmmakers gave Fox more to do rather playing second banana to Doc. And the final scenes involving Marty's wandering girlfriend, Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue), and some business about playing "chicken" will only serve to confuse those who are not fans of the original two films.

As directed once again by Robert Zemeckis and co-written by Bob Gale, "Back to the Future Part III" is still loads of fun, a high-powered comic adventure that utilizes the Old West setting for several, blink-and-you'll-miss, in-jokes and some desperate gags (like Marty stepping on some horse dung or mimicking the "You talkin' to me" line in front of a mirror). But the silliness and momentum keep one's interest and never flags. The performances all hit the right notes and the ending is a stunning surprise with a wonderful visual gag that echoes the original. Not as rich or as weighty as the original, or as frenetic as the sequel, but it is a deft bled of comedy and adventure overall guaranteed to leave you in high spirits.

For more reviews, check out JERRY AT THE MOVIES at members/movies/faust/JATMindex.shtml

Copyright 1990 Jerry Saravia

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