Friday, January 11, 2013

The Problem With: "Back To The Future"

What? How?

I'm a curious man. I like to ask questions, and I do not relent until I feel I have received a satisfactory answer. I cannot accept ambiguity in my life.

You wouldn't want to watch a TV show or a movie with me. I'm constantly picking apart plot holes, character inconsistencies...whatever seems flawed, in my opinion. Whatever seems wrong.

Allow me to offer two examples off of the top of my head. I followed the 1980s sitcom Small Wonder as a kid. If you're not familiar with the show, you can brush up on it by watching this trailer for the season-one DVD release. I can raise all sorts of questions based on the trailer alone.

The patriarch of that family is called a "genius engineer." What? How? Listen closely to how his robot, Vicki, speaks. Is that really the work of a "genius"? And while I do enjoy the show for its kitsch factor, I am confident it was not a "classic beacon of '80s culture."

The second example: the George Clooney movie The Descendants. When I left a screening of the film last year, my first thought was not, That was an Oscar-worthy performance by Clooney. (He was nominated but didn't win.) I was more concerned with the fact that his character's wife was stolen from him by Matthew Lillard. What? How?

With all due respect to Lillard, who is a fine actor and I'm sure a fine human being, he has little chance of having an affair with a girl romanced by a two-time People magazine "Sexiest Man Alive" winner. A woman choosing Shaggy over Clooney? I don't think so.

There's a reason why I'm mentioning all of this. I'm starting an occasional series of posts titled "The Problem With," in which I'll write about the inconsistencies I observe in the TV shows and movies, past and present, that I watch.

I promise not to bore you with arguments you've heard many times before. So there will be no discussion of Saved by the Bell, whose track record of unresolved story lines and haphazard character development is unmatched.

With that disclaimer out of the way, it's time to address "The Problem With: Back to the Future," my all-time favorite movie. The time-traveling aspects of the entire trilogy make sense to me; it's clear the producers put a lot of thought into making sure there were no glaring flaws. If you feel differently, the DVD collection has a wonderful FAQ that will probably answer your questions.

What puzzles me about the Back to the Future series is Marty McFly's first encounter with the 1955 version of his mother, Lorraine. This is right after he is struck by his grandfather's -- his mother's father's -- car.

You may recall that it was Marty's father, George, who was meant to be hit by the car. George had fallen from a tree while watching a woman in a state of undress using binoculars. After realizing what his dad was up to, a disgusted Marty referred to him as a "peeping Tom." But he was nice enough to push George out of harm's way anyway.

Cut to a bedroom in Lorraine's house, where Marty wakes up after having been knocked out from the accident. She's there, watching him in the dark. OK, that's a little creepy, but whatever. She informs him that he's "safe and sound now, back in good old 1955." Marty is startled not only by the fact that he's 30 years in the past, but also by the fact that he has no pants on. He asks her where his pants are, like any logical man would in that situation. Her only response: "Over there, on my hope chest." What?

See, at this point, if I were Marty, I would've asked, "Why did you take off my pants?" It's a reasonable question, I feel. How would taking off his pants aid in his recovery? I'm no Doc Brown, but I don't think it would.

I've never heard a doctor say, "In the event that a friend or a loved one blacks out, you must assist them first by removing their clothes. Please don't be shy, it's all medical procedure." Had Marty known there would be even the slightest chance that he might suffer a concussion one day, I highly doubt he would've ever worn purple underwear.

Say what you will about your old man, Marty, but your mom was out of control as a teenager.