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Back in Time DVD Review

Back in Time DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Back in Time
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Jason Aron / Producer: Lee Leshen / Executive Producer: Louis Krubich

Notable Interview Subjects: Steven Spielberg, Michael J. Fox, Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Lloyd, Bob Gale, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, Alan Silvestri, Frank Price, Dean Cundey, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Don Fullilove, Jeffrey Weissman, Andrew Probert, Kevin Pike, Michael Scheffe, Adam F. Goldberg, Dan Harmon, Joe Walser, Kevin Pike, Bill Shea, Patrick Shea, Terry Holler, Oliver Holler, Fabien Riggall, Stephen Clark, Jill Henderson, Greg Henderson, Carl Dietrich, Rob Klein, Marco Pasqua, Adam Kontras, The Flux Capacitors

Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 13, 2016 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.95
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video
Previously released on October 21, 2015 Blu-ray Disc ($24.49 SRP) and DVD ($9.95 SRP)

Buy Back in Time from Amazon.com: DVD Blu-ray Instant Video

In strength and longevity, my love for Back to the Future is rivaled by only a handful of movies and no other works of art or entertainment. That sentiment made reviewing the trilogy's DVD rerelease for the original film's 25th anniversary in 2010 too daunting to complete and covering last fall's 30th anniversary Blu-ray reissue too intimidating to even request.
But it also drove me to review Back in Time, a 2015 documentary about the making of the Robert Zemeckis-directed, Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi classics (and Back to the Future Part III as well).

Back in Time came to DVD and Blu-ray last year the same October week that the movies topped the box office for a day (the day that Marty and Doc visited in the future in Part II) and the aforementioned Blu-ray collection come about. Why Back in Time is being reissued eleven months later and seemingly only on DVD, I really don't know. But I got an e-mail about it, sent an e-mail back asking to review it, and here we are.

Made for and by fans, Back in Time boasts unique new interviews with virtually everyone of importance associated with the trilogy. There are only two obvious actor omissions: Crispin Glover, unsurprisingly, since he passed on the sequels and sued the makers for using his footage in Part II, and Thomas F. Wilson (Biff, Griff, and Buford Tannen in the films), which is less expected since he's historically been a good sport. Just about anyone else you can think of has sat down to reflect on what for most of them is the most enduring and furthest-reaching work of their careers. A near-complete list of subjects appears above, but the biggies include Zemeckis, Spielberg, screenwriter Bob Gale, stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, actresses Lea Thompson and Claudia Wells, composer Alan Silvestri, cinematographer Dean Cundey, theme song performer Huey Lewis, and supporting players James Tolkan and Donald Fullilove.

Michael J. Fox doesn't appear until 20 minutes into "Back in Time", but he is a frequent presence after that. "Back in Time" provides glimpses of Eric Stoltz, the actor originally cast in the role of Marty McFly.

Fittingly enough, the documentary starts with the original film, as Gale recalls its conception from his father's old high school yearbook. He and Zemeckis recall getting turned down by every studio (which then Columbia Pictures chief Frank Price confirms) and referred to Disney, who then swiftly turned them down over the plot's perceived incestuous tones. From there, the actors recall how they were cast in their roles, with Fox being tapped to replace Eric Stoltz weeks into shooting and having to make the film at night while shooting "Family Ties" during the day.

The second part of the documentary turns our attention to the film's passionate fanbase, which by this point has already been represented by the likes of "Community" creator Dan Harmon (easily the smuggest and least likable of interview subjects) and tribute band The Flux Capacitors. For this film, fandom chiefly manifests in the form of people buying DeLoreans and converting them to look like the series' time machine. If you're like me, your interest may start to flag here. But there are still some interesting stories, like the man diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live who defied the odds and now travels around raising funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation with his wife in a DeLorean that looks convincing from a distance.

Back in Time proceeds to look at the sequels (which Harmon alone does not hesitate to disparage), paying most attention to the 2015 envisioned in Part II. Thought is given to the viability of hoverboards and flying cars, as well as the technologies accurately predicted in the 1989 film.

Other highlights include Fox recalling the original film's royal screening, in which he was seated next to Princess Diana and had to use the bathroom the whole time; Secret Cinema's alluring Back to the Future exhibition (in which the 1955 Hill Valley was impressively recreated); a discussion of BTTF books that have been published; and homages to the franchise from ABC's "The Goldbergs" (whose creator Adam F. Goldberg is both an executive producer and interview subject here) to "American Dad" and Harmon's "Rick and Morty." All are suitably excerpted, as, thankfully, are the BTTF films themselves and Huey Lewis' "Power of Love" music video.

"BTTF" director Robert Zemeckis speaks in front of a neon pink-lit hoverboard. Your interest in "Back in Time" might begin to flag when it starts focusing on DeLorean and other vehicle restoration.

The film ends with the filmmakers reiterating their desire not to make a fourth installment and also ruminating upon when they'd visit if time travel were really discovered.

Back in Time currently sits with a mediocre 6.3 out of 10 average rating on IMDb. These fan documentaries have a tough task of winning everyone over when many of the viewers potentially won over are ones who might be miffed that they weren't asked to be featured in it or that their story did not make the cut. I noticed that phenomenon after recently watching the Ghostbusters
documentary Ghostheads on Netflix and seeing the IMDb entry pervaded by negativity. Back in Time is certainly better and more comprehensive than that one. It seems to do justice to a franchise I value as highly as any, celebrating the movies and the passion they inspire and making you feel good about both.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Back in Time's DVD release may seem superfluous to anyone with a Netflix subscription, because the documentary has been available to stream in high definition since last fall. By comparison, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation doesn't seem too spectacular. At times, the footage has an amateurish digital video look to it and one Dan Harmon interview clip seems to fall out of sync and then try to catch up. You do wish a 2015 documentary about such a cinematic landmark would look a little better than this. It could sound a little better too, though there aren't as glaring issues with the default Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track or the alternate Dolby Stereo 2.0 mix. English SDH subtitles are supplied.

The barebones "Back in Time" DVD gives you no reason not to just hope the documentary remains available to stream on Netflix.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

One way to distinguish this release from Netflix would be in the inclusion of bonus features, but the DVD contains nothing of the sort here. The Blu-ray edition evidently had some, but as I said before, this new DVD seems to arrive without a Blu-ray counterpart.

The static menus offer the few basics (e.g. scene selection and set up) without much imagination or flair.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the plain black keepcase, but at least the DVD is a true pressed DVD and not the DVD-R that last year's edition apparently supplied.

Sorry, fans. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale are standing by their no-Part IV stance they've always held and once used T-shirts to declare.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Back to the Future fans should thoroughly enjoy Back in Time. I know I did. Having said that, it feels more like a documentary that should accompany the film on its Blu-ray release than one you'd buy on its own and dedicate its own shelf space to. Further undermining the value of this vanilla DVD with its occasionally underwhelming feature presentation is the fact that the movie is available to freely stream right now in high definition, and has been for nearly a year, for Netflix subscribers. Whether on Netflix or by renting this DVD, the movie is worth seeing if you appreciate the BTTF trilogy (and how can you not?!).

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Reviewed September 7, 2016.



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