Sci-fi weepy romance about modern Rip Van Winkle.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is a mild nude scene of Mel Gibson after he emerges from his cryogenic freezer. Jamie Lee Curtis is shown getting dressed (in a non-sexual context) clad in a bra. A 10-year-old boy protagonist repeatedly disobeys orders, ultimately piloting a (stolen) vintage aircraft at the end and his mother does some reckless driving.
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What's the Story?
In 1939, Dan McCormick (Mel Gibson), a dashing U.S. government test pilot, fears only one thing: how to propose marriage to his patient childhood sweetheart. When she's hit by a car and falls into a coma, Dan, an orphan, declares he has nothing else to live for, so he volunteers for a groundbreaking experiment in suspended animation carried out by his scientist buddy. Cut to the 1990s. Two mischievous boys living near the Army base find the warehoused, forgotten metal capsule in which McCormick is frozen. They accidentally release him, then run in terror. The disoriented Dan, finding the ID left behind by 10-year-old Nat (Elijah Wood), shows up at the boy's house. Dan ends up charming Nat's single mom, a nurse (Jamie Lee Curtis), with his old-school gentlemanly manners and bravery. But locating somebody, anybody, from Dan's remote past becomes crucial when the medical side effects of his long hibernation set in.
Is It Any Good?
Most of this handsomely filmed Rip Van Winkle takeoff goes predictably but entertainingly from point A to point B. Ultimately it turns out to be more a tearjerker romance than gee-whiz sci-fi, but holds the interest anyhow and works nicely for young and old viewers alike. Pacing is snappy (with a few gratuitous chase scenes to raise the action quotient), the actors are fun, and the attitude pleasantly old-fashioned -- you could pretty much imagine FOREVER YOUNG playing theater screens along with all the other Hollywood corn in 1939, with little censorship fuss. It's nice they kept the ambiance non-vulgar and non-cynical as Dan confronts a "strange" future of computers, TV, divorced singletons, latchkey kids, and strip malls.
Gibson's matinee idol-like hero never shows us (and the script doesn't put him in any position to) the negatives of his era, such as racism or homophobia, and there is a subtle inference -- probably the ONLY thing understated -- that time-displaced Dan is an example of that Greatest Generation; the stereotypically gallant but unpretentious red-blooded young American G.I.s, flyboys, and sailor-men who would soon be fighting WWII. If the U.S. is in a sorry state today, it's because guys like this just don't exist anymore. No wonder women in the 1990s melt for Gibson's defrosted hunk.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Dan's predicament: frozen, then forgotten by his own military for more than 60 years. What would you do in his shoes? Ask kids about the differences between the 1930s and the 1990s and whether Dan adapts realistically or not. What do you think life will be like six decades from now?
- In theaters: December 16, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: July 30, 1997
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Jamie Lee Curtis, Mel Gibson
- Director: Steve Miner
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some language and domestic conflict
- Last updated: March 2, 2023
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