If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has built possibly the greatest invention known to man: A time machine. But when he goes to test it for the first time, a group of terrorists guns him down in cold blood, and it's up to young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to go back in time to save the inventor. While there, however, he finds himself accidentally altering the time line, and must then find a way to stop the present from being altered as well.
The whole concept of this film sounds rather overwhelming when you describe it, but the way it's done on screen is simple and pretty much flawless. They spend a decent amount of time establishing the history and the characters, but not enough to feel overbearing or dragged out. We get to go back to 1955 fairly quickly with just enough information to get all the subtle and not-so-subtle gags littered throughout the script. At first I was admittedly feeling like they were laying on the exposition a little thick, but the payoff for each and every established fact really works in the end. There's a good balance between nostalgia, humor, characters, and science fiction that brings together a really great story that's entertaining to watch more than once.
The ensemble featured is one of great talent, with Christopher Lloyd being a major highlight but never outshining the rest of the cast. I love Crispin Glover as Marty's father George (both in the present and the past). He's almost cartoonish in how pathetic he is, but the development of the character throughout the film shows him to be charming and relatable in a way. Lea Thompson also gets to have a lot of fun with her role, playing Marty's conservative, overweight mother in the present and the slender, estrogen-filled Lorraine of the past. Then of course there's Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), the high school bully who never grew up and is still in the present picking on Marty's father. He's a simple villain but still fun to watch. He's not as stupid as he is arrogant, and he does go a little bit farther as a villain than your average movie bully. And again, like with everything else in the film, the payoff of this character is wonderful.
Maybe the only real problem I have with the film is the epilogue, which is supposed to be happy but just comes off really dark to me. The way everything turns out in the end, it seems like the message is that altering history is totally justifiable as long as everything turns out okay for you. This arrogant, teenage angst justification sort of ending was rampant in the 80s and I've always really disliked it. It's not as painful here as it is in something like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but it's still rather irksome. The very last moment, however, is one of the best and most epic I've seen in a movie. It totally makes me forget any problems I was having with how things turned out and immediately makes me want to watch the sequels. Overall, it's a highly enjoyable film with tight-knit writing, great characters, an outstanding score featuring the single greatest movie theme I've ever heard and a simple-but-lovable story.