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*Also starring: Andre Braugher, Noah Emmerich, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jordan Bridges, Shawn Doyle, Daniel Henson

Review by John Beachem
3½ stars out of 4

If there is one thing that science-fiction movies love to grapple with, it is the possibility of time travel. According to most Hollywood writers, there seem to be two different ways of dealing with time travel. Either the past can be altered and the future improved, as in the "Terminator" movies, or the seldom used possibility that the past cannot be changed, as explored in Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys". "Frequency", the new film from director Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear"), is a movie which falls under the first category yet it is different from most films like this; we are able to see the effects of changes to the past on the future as they occur. For example, we get interesting scenes like one in which a character in the past burns a message into a desk, while a person in the future watches the words appear. However, "Frequency" does not attempt to deal with the paradox problems which arise when dealing with time travel. You'll have to decide for yourself if this was a good idea.

John Sullivan (James Caviezel) is a burned out cop (burned out cop seems to be a common profession) who is having marital problems with his wife, Samantha (Melissa Errico). One evening, while drowning away his miseries with beer, he stumbles across his father's old ham radio. John turns it on and discovers that he can somehow use it to communicate back through time and speak to his father, Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid), who has been dead for thirty years. While the two are, at first, disbelieving what has happened, they are soon catching up like old friends. John finds that he may be able to save his father's life if he can warn him about the accident which will soon claim it. While John does manage to save his father's life, it alters the future in ways which he could never have forseen.

For all you fanatical sci-fi fans out there, I'd best warn you that certain things are never explained in this movie. The ham radio being able to communicate back in time is only explained as having to do with massive solar activity at the time, which isn't much of a scientific explanation. The time paradox, which would be created by changing the past, is never even brought up. A time paradox would be something like this: If a person is not originally killed in the past, and a person in the future changes it so that person is killed in the past, he wouldn't have existed in the future for the person in the future to try and change the past. In other words, this is the sort of thing which you can think about forever and it just goes around in circles. This is why I personally think it's best that the movie didn't try to explain it. Besides, you'll be having far too much fun with the rest of the film to care about little plot inconsistencies like that.

The nice thing about a movie like this, which has no big name stars (except the always underrated Dennis Quaid), is that it is forced to rely upon a good script to draw a crowd. Afterall, last year's godawful "Wild Wild West" proved that a movie with big name stars and no script simply doesn't work. This isn't to say that the no name actors in "Frequency" don't do a good job. James Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line") does a very good job of showing a wide range of emotions without going over the top. Dennis Quaid ("Dragonheart") gives his usual fine, understated performance, and Andre Braugher ("Primal Fear") turns in a great performance as Frank Sullivan's cop friend, Satch. Of course, the actors are assisted by some good, if at times a bit too sappy, dialogue. Great lines like "I wanted to let you know you went down thirty years ago, you just don't know it yet" are sprinkled throughout the movie.

In addition to the nice performances and dialogue, "Frequency" has a few other things going for it. Gregory Hoblit's direction is quite impressive, He keeps things interesting by moving events along at a steady pace and only allowing sequences to drag on a little too long once or twice. The soundtrack nicely compliments the story, It always plays softly in the background, rather than overwhelming what is being said (Which is a common practice these days). "Frequency" is one of those good natured movies which are now so ill received. While there may be violence, that isn't what this film is about. It's about a man able to reach back in time and talk to someone who he never had the chance to say goodbye to. "Frequency" is a good movie which will unforunately do poorly at the box office due to lack of star power, advertising, and the ever popular extreme violence. The film runs 117 minutes, which might have been cut down to 105 with a bit more editing. I'd recommend it to fans of time travel stories and give it four out of five stars.

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Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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