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Back to the Future Produced by Steven Spielberg At the Sack Charles

Something must be wrong with the latest Steven Spielberg movie. There are no cute cuddly creatures in it. There are no frightening little devils in it. In fact, Spielberg seems to have pulled every idea from the several thousand other time machine movies ever made. So how can Back to the Future be any good? More importantly, how can it make money?

Well, start with an all-American kid like Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, the ultra-conservative son in "Family Ties"). Surround him with a girl-next-door sweetheart, a caricature family and a mad doctor friend (Christopher Lloyd, who played Jim the drug addict in "Taxi") who has created a Time Machine. Sound familiar?

OK, now paint Marty in Guess jeans and jacket, Polo shirt, and Nike sneakers. Then give him a fiberglass skateboard and watch him catch rides on the backs of passing cars. So far, everything here is pretty straight-forward. No Ewoks, no Yodas.

Then put a time machine in a DeLorean sports car and make it run on plutonium. Then create Arab terrorists who will kill for the plutonium and will blow away anything that stands in their way; including Marty and the mad Doctor.

This is where Back to the Future becomes a Spielberg movie, and where the film picks up speed. Doc Brown is killed by the arab terrorists, and Marty escapes--via the DeLorean--back to 1955. He may be stuck there, however, because he is out of plutonium.

But because he comes from the all-American family, both his parents and Doc Brown have lived in the same place since 1955. Marty ends up running into all three of them during the next week. He also alters the course of their lives in ways he couldn't imagine.

In the week that ensues, Marty will have to get his parents back together, or else he won't be born. Then he has to make sure he gets back into the DeLorean in time for a lightning storm so that the car can be charged back to the future (hence the title).

BUT, MARTY'S JOURNEY back in history leaves ample time for the usual assortment of anachronism jokes. While visiting his dad's malt shop, Marty asks for a Tab. When the counterman replies that he can't give him a tab until he orders something, Marty asks for a Pepsi Free. The counterman, now somewhat exasperated, tells him that there is no way he can have a Pepsi, free.

Even funnier is the way every character in 1955 America thinks that Marty's orange down vest is a life preserver and presumes that he is some kind of sailor. It gets to be a running joke in the movie and doesn't lose its humor even by the fourth time the joke is made.

Marty even invents rock-'n-roll in his short visit to the 1950s, when he plays a 1956 Chuck Berry song to an audience that includes Berry's brother--who quickly calls up Chuck to tell him that he has discovered the sound that the founder of rock has been looking for.

Before leaving for 1985, Marty finally gets his parents back together (advising them that if they ever have an eight year-old son who accidentally sets the living room rug on fire, to "go easy on him.") He also tries to tell Doc Brown, who in his younger days staunchly refuses to hear about the future, of his demise in 1985.

Marty's return to the future will have you pondering whether Spielberg tied up all the loose ends, and wondering in which reality the movie now takes place. Spielberg does a remarkably good job of keeping each timeline consistent, making Back to the Future not only one of his best movies ever, but also one of his most realistic (time machines, etc. not withstanding).

Though Back to the Future is not strictly a comedy, laughs are plenty and hearty. And while the film starts slowly--with a typically Spielbergesque beginning that pictures the mad doctor's vast home-timer system that does everything from turn on the radio to feed the dog--it moves quickly along and years pass like minutes.

Because it lacks both the one-word title of a Goonies and the kill-all-the-bad-guys aspects of a Rambo or Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future may get lost in this summer's plethora of Spielberg and Spielberg ripoff movies. This is unfortunate, as Back to the Future is what a movie ought to be: two hours of non-stop enjoyment.

So amidst your treks to see goonies, explorers, ghoulies and cocoons, take a little time out to go Back to the Future.