Moss Island Movie Minute: Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Undoubtedly the worst second installment in franchise history. Practically unendurable (it took me four sittings over several years) – writing, directing, editing, cinematography, set design, costumes, music…it’s like watching a fifth generation print with a dubbed soundtrack, except it’s not even amusingly bad, and you feel like you’re slowly being smothered under a mattress while middle schoolers beat you with baseball bats.  It’s mystifying, because the same team had been successful in the earlier film (only the costumer changed) and this time money was no object. (OK, that might have been the problem.)

Movie Minute iconNone of those misfires are worse than mistaking star Michael J. Fox for a versatile performer.  Fox did well in the first movie by staying out of the way of the comic high flyers.  This time, he plays four roles, badly, and the others stay out of his way. WAY out of his way – they seem like they’d rather be anywhere else (Crispin Glover actually did skip the movie, and won a lawsuit over the film’s unauthorized use of his likeness.)

Hubris and money… When Michael Cimino made Heaven’s Gate (1980), say what you want, but it was still Michael Cimino. When Francis Coppola made The Cotton Club (1984), he was still Francis Fucking Coppola. Great filmmakers make bad movies with style. Zemeckis isn’t, and doesn’t.

The film’s only redeeming value is its prescience about the triumph of Donald Trump – Thomas F. Wilson plays a villain who becomes a vastly successful mogul. The hair and the cheesy casino decor are spot-on satires; if the film had him winning the Republican nomination, well… that just might have been worth the budget of a multi-million dollar fantasy film.