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Movie Review

Back to the Future 2

MPAA Rating: PG for unspecified reasons
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Sci-Fi Romance Comedy
1 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Box Art for “Back to the Future Part II”
Featuring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producer: Bob Gale, Neil Canton, Amblin Entertainment, Steve Starkey, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Steven Spielberg
Distributor: Universal

This continuation episode of the smash 1985 hit contains multiple time-travel segments. Two major characters are played by new actors in Parts II and III: Elizabeth Shue plays Jennifer, and lookalike actor Jeffrey Weissman (helped out by fuzzy and long-range camera shots and by stock footage from Part I) replaces Crispin Glover as Marty’s father George. Other than that, the main cast is back reprising their old roles and playing some new ones as well.

The opening scene is the closing scene of Part I, but is partially reshot in order to include Shue and to have Doc hesitate before he says (falsely) that the 2015 Marty turns out fine. First, Marty (Michael J. Fox) and Doc (Christopher Lloyd) travel to 2015 to keep Marty’s kids, Marty Jr. (Fox) and Marlene (Fox) from getting in trouble because of Biff Tannin’s (Thomas F. Wilson) grandson Griff (Wilson). Then they return to 1985, but find that it’s an “alternate” 1985 because while they were otherwise occupied in 2015, old Biff “borrowed” their time machine and changed the past. (We see old Biff apparently dying as he returns the stolen time machine to 2015 and exits it; footage that wasn’t used in the final cut showed him actually fading out of existence because his changes to the past caused his own premature death.) The alt-1985 is a nightmare world where millionaire Biff has murdered Marty’s father, married Marty’s mother (Lea Thompson), and wreaked havoc on society. Having learned the date that old Biff visited his teenage self (it’s the same time in 1955 that Marty traveled back to in Part I), Marty and Doc go back to that time once again in order to undo old Biff’s work. Some of the Part I scenes are reshot or altered so they now include two Docs and two Martys. Then there’s an accident with the time machine, which sends Doc even farther back in time and leaves Marty stranded in 1955.

Content Warnings

This episode is the most offensive one in the series. It has quite a bit of profanity. The alt-1985 Biff, besides being a crook and a murderer, forces his wife (Marty’s mother) to get breast implants and keeps her pacified by letting her drink herself silly. he’s also seen in a hot tub with a couple of floozies who appear to be topless. The alt-1985 segment looks like a war zone and has a lot of violence including a teenage gang with machine guns; while the violence isn’t super-realistic, it seems overdone for a comedy film. The 1955 segment includes the straight-laced school principal, Mr. Strickland (James Tolkan), confiscating a girlie magazine from Biff and seeming to leaf through it himself in the privacy of his office (while also pouring what appears to be alcohol into his coffee mug). On the positive side: There are warnings against greed, taking dares, and using technology for personal gain.

The original film was a huge hit because it had certain elements that everyone could identify with. One was the school bully, who also appears in Parts II and III in the form of Biff and/or other generations of the Tannin family. Another element, unfortunately not found in Parts II and III, was Marty “connecting” with his father. [The father-son element was also a reason for the success of the 2000 time-warp movie “Frequency.”] I don’t know whether the writers always planned to reduce George’s character to a cameo or whether Glover just held out for too much money, but I miss that aspect. However, Marty does connect with Doc Brown as a surrogate father in all 3 episodes. The writers also “replay” familiar themes from other films, such as the offbeat scientist with a pet toy-breed dog using a flying car to attack his foe (borrowed from “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber”).

For those with sensitive spirits, or when there are children involved, these films pose a problem. They’re very well done, and are not as bad as most movies; but they have too much profane content to be watched just for fun, with one’s guard down. Also, the backward time-travel angle is dangerous. I’ve enjoyed Sci-Fi all my life, but the stories that messed up my head the most as a kid were the ones containing backward time-travel with all its implications such as alternate universes and bringing people back from the dead. As with any film, parents must set the threshold of content acceptable for their children.

Viewer Comments
Positive—This continuation of Marty McFly’s (Michael J. Fox) time travelling adventures is fast paced and funny. When this movie was first released, some critics complained that the constant hopping back and forth between time zones was confusing, but it’s not. There is some violence and some cursing, but nothing that would traumatize anyone.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Hillari Hunter, age 39