[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Tomorrow Man

A time-traveling story of fathers and sons

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

September 25, 2001 -- There are some people who don't like stories about time travel. I'm not one of those people. I even like little-known time travel movies like "12:01," and "Grand Tour: Disaster in Time," as well as better-known time paradox films like last year's hit "Frequency." That's why I rented a VHS tape of "The Tomorrow Man" from the local rental place. I would have preferred a DVD, but all they had was a tape.

"The Tomorrow Man" has some similarities to "Frequency." Both are about a father and son using time travel to get unique perspectives on their relationship. "The Tomorrow Man" goes a step beyond in that it allows the son to meet his grown up self in the future. The father, Larry Mackey (played Corbin Bernsen of "The New Age" and "The Cape" TV series), is a bitter, alcoholic, short-tempered, under-achiever. He loves his wife and son, but is nevertheless a poor husband and father. He thinks he's doing all right. He soon discovers he is in error.

Mackey's young son, Mac (played at age 11 by Adam Sutton, and at age 41 by Morgan Rusler of "Galaxy Quest") and his wife Jeanine (played by Elizabeth Sandifer in the past and Jeanne Cooper in the future) are becoming increasingly alienated by Mackey's abusive behavior. It isn't until Mackey is transported into the future by a time-traveling secret agent, Vick (Beth Kennedy of "Phenomenon") that he is forced to confront the terrible long term effects of his behavior. He finds his wife bitter and hateful. She says, "I didn't cry at your funeral, Larry. Actually, it was the happiest day of my life." He finds out his son did not turn out to be a model citizen, either.

The future Mac steals a time travel device from Vick, then travels to the past to kidnap himself at an early age. He plans to save himself from future years of abuse by acting as his own parent. This mind-boggling concept gives a whole new meaning to the term "feedback loop." It turns out that Mac is not even fit to be his own parent. He's a ruthless killer. Larry begs for the chance to go back the past. He promises to change his life and to avoid his future mistakes. Vick hopes that Larry can go back to the past and straighten out this whole mess so that it will never have happened. But then again, if Larry does go back and changes his behavior so that the original time travel incident never happens, he won't get the opportunity to go into the future to learn about all the mistakes he has made. He will therefore lack the motivation to straighten out his bad behavior. Time travel creates the possibility of this, and limitless other paradoxes.

These paradoxes make time travel plots very complicated. This movie, written and directed by Douglas Campbell, takes a lighthearted approach to the consequences of time travel. The story also fails to think out the implications of time travel. For instance, despite time travel, there are murderers. All you would have to do is go back to the time just before the murder and stop the killer before he has a chance to kill. At the end of the film, the time travel agents are off to the Watergate hotel in an attempt to ensure that President Nixon goes to jail for his crimes. You go fiddling around with the past like that, and you will alter the future in significant, and very unpredictable ways. In this film, these kinds of consequences are not mentioned. Earlier in the film, Vick's partner, Spence (Zach Galligan of "Gremlins"), is killed by Mac. Even though Spence and Vick were lovers, Vick doesn't behave as if she's very broken up about Spence's death. It is another example of the film's casual approach to some weighty issues.

Corbin does a fine job portraying a character who is not very sympathetic. He seems angry, confused and frustrated, but caring. It is an exceptional performance. The actors and actresses portraying Mac and Jeanine in the past and future are also effective. The acting is generally solid. Even though this is a science fiction film, the special effects are minimal. There are fights and gunplay, but the staging is cursory. Instead, the main thrust of the film is to explore the development and complex interplay of the characters, and that's a good thing. This is obviously a low-budget "B" film, but it does explore some interesting ideas, even if the direction is a little uneven. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)