- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Jeff Giles
ll he wanted to do was play his guitar and sing – but Marty McFly has headed back to the retail shelves thanks to Universal’s latest round of double-dipping, which breaks up the “Back to the Future” trilogy (originally released as a set in 2003) and makes the movies available individually for the first time on DVD. Aside from sending a fresh wave of royalty checks to Huey Lewis’ mailbox, these releases provide sweet vindication for “Back to the Future” fans who refused to buy the trilogy set on the grounds that the second and third installments aren’t worth paying for. Of course, the fact that the first film now comes with a second disc of new-ish bonus material is kind of crappy for anyone who did purchase these movies in 2003, but what’s the DVD market for, if not making you sorry you bought something without waiting for the inevitable reissue?
Originally released in 1985, “Back to the Future” gave “Family Ties” star Michael J. Fox his breakout role as the aforementioned Marty McFly, a high-strung suburban teen whose friendship with the eccentric Doc Brown had all sorts of incredible side effects – including, in the first movie alone, being shot at by Libyan terrorists, sent back 30 years in time, and having to play matchmaker for the adolescent version of his own parents. As fans would discover in 1989’s “Back to the Future II,” the sci-fi implications of such a storyline can result in fairly heady stuff, but for their first go-round, co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (who also directed) wisely opted to keep discussions of the space-time continuum to a strict minimum, focusing instead on the wisecracking action that helped “Future” rack up more than $350 million in worldwide grosses.
24 years later, “Future” doesn’t pack quite the same wallop – some of the dialogue is embarrassingly bad, and the special effects show their seams. But the utterly hokey ingredients are a big part of its charm, and it carries you away in a big ball of cheese, the way Hollywood classics used to. And although the Zemeckis and Gale script has its corny moments, it’s also genius – it combines action, romance, comedy, drama and science fiction with impressive dexterity, and has aged better than most of its contemporaries.
It’s also earned the double-disc treatment, and the special features in this new edition don’t disappoint. The first disc’s bonuses all came with the trilogy set, but they’re still impressive: a pair of commentary tracks (one of them offering special “enhanced” reminiscing from Michael J. Fox), a Q&A with Zemeckis and Gale, makeup tests, screenplay excerpts and glimpses of the production archives. It also includes a pair of featurettes – one of which, “The Making of ‘Back to the Future,’” was shot alongside the original film, and includes footage of producer Steven Spielberg in his mulleted mid-‘80s prime, as well as a telling scene where Fox says he’d use the power of time travel to go back to the wild West.
The new stuff on the second disc is equally entertaining (albeit non-essential) – alongside footage from the Universal Studios ride, there’s a Leslie Nielsen-hosted TV special that originally aired in 1989, as well as “Looking Back to the Future,” a 45-minute documentary that includes new interviews from Zemeckis, Gale and members of the cast, as well as more behind-the-scenes footage. If you already own the single-disc version, it might be enough to get you to buy it all over again – and if you resisted the urge to purchase “Back to the Future” six years ago, all of your excuses are officially gone, especially considering Amazon’s current $9.99 price point for the DVD. Get it now, so you can have the satisfaction of owning it for a few years before the inevitable Ultimate Blu-ray Deluxe Edition.