James vs. His Future Self

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
James vs. His Future Self Movie Poster Image
Well-meaning but crass time-travel comedy has drinking, pot.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Appreciate your time now: Be present. Work-life balance is essential to happiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Positive female representations include an esteemed older woman who leads her own research center, a caring sister, a female cop, and an intelligent young Black woman who's articulate and uncompromising (in a good way) when it comes to what she needs in a relationship. Lead male character is a scientific genius who later in life comes to realize how to express his emotions. Allusions to characters being "on the spectrum." 

Violence

Attempted murder (unsuccessful) with some blood. Comical repeated slapping across the face. A taser is used a couple of times.

Sex

Long, passionate make-out scene in which a bra is exposed. The story is about two friends who want to be in a romantic relationship. Penis jokes (non-insulting).

Language

"F--k" is used often, as are "goddammit" and "s--t." Strong language often refers to body parts and functions (as opposed to name-calling): "a--hole," "c--k," "d--k," "hard-on," "masturbate," "t-ts," etc. A sister calls her brother "idiot" and "stupid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine is poured to set a romantic mood, characters drink margaritas to fuel a fun mood, and a sad, desperate character drinks whiskey out of the bottle. Characters set out to get drunk by drinking beer at a bar. A supporting character smokes pot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that James vs. His Future Self is a Canadian sci-fi time-travel comedy about the importance of being present. An aging scientist (Daniel Stern) tries to stop his younger self (Jonas Chernick) from creating a time machine because he threw his life away pursuing work instead of enjoying what matters. All of the characters are smart, and -- title/main character notwithstanding -- the majority of the cast is female. Older James has learned to express his emotions, but he's also willing to turn to violence. The characters use lots of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.), including crass slang for body parts ("d--k," "c--k"). While Asperger syndrome is never mentioned by name, there are suggestions -- without stereotypes -- that James and his boss are both neurologically atypical. A frustrated romance is part of the storyline, and there's one sexy scene that's interrupted before anything actually happens (other than a glimpse of a bra). Drinking/getting drunk is equated with a good time, and a supporting character smokes pot. 

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What's the story?

In JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF, James (Jonas Chernick) is on the brink of figuring out how to travel through time when he's confronted by an aged version of himself (Daniel Stern). Older James has come back from the future to make sure that younger James never completes his design -- or else. But young James won't be swayed, setting off a vicious battle between him and himself. 

Is it any good?

Sophomoric humor detracts from an otherwise fun concept in Jeremy LaLonde and Chernick's time-travel comedy. They use moviegoers' time-tested fascination with exploring the past and future to drill home an opposing message: Live in the now. But the writers can't get out of their own way, stumbling as they mix a world of scientific brainiacs with immature penis jokes. Looking at the duo's filmography (Sex After Kids, Planning an Orgy in a Small Town, A Swingers Weekend, My Awkward Sexual Adventure -- and many more), it seems inevitable that they would find each other ... and too much to expect that they'd break out of their lowbrow comfort zone. Of course, this is just the kind of humor that appeals to tweens and teens. The good news is that while the characters do crack lots of jokes about genitalia, it's all pretty innocent. Even the movie's "sex" scene fizzles before any real action takes place.

And, really, there's a lot of good stuff in James vs. His Future Self. For starters, the film includes one of the all-time best speeches used to get out of the "friend zone." And, James' best friend/crush, Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman), is a wonderful character: a female scientist who's not a dork, not mousy, and definitely not waiting around for her prince to come. Rather, she's smart, independent, articulate, sure of herself, and uninterested in settling. Additionally, James and Courtney's boss, Dr. Rowley, is portrayed with understated comedic excellence by Frances Conroy. The character is a leader in her field who operates The Rowley Institute, a research facility in her own name (men's names are often emblazoned on movie companies tied to scientific innovations -- like Stark Industries or Oscorp -- but rarely women's), and she displays characteristics of genius without falling into cliché. Even a female cop who appears from time to time projects an element of progressiveness: She's there to help and isn't snarling, but she isn't a dummy either. And, talk about defying stereotypes: You gotta respect a time-travel movie that takes place entirely in the present.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about James vs. His Future Self's message. What does it say about appreciating the present and being in the moment? Do you agree?

  • How does this film compare to other movies in the time-travel genre? Why do you think that's such a popular notion to explore in film?

  • How does the movie use time travel to explore humanity's self-destructive tendencies? If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

  • Discuss the representations in the film. How are women depicted here compared to the way they are in most films? 

  • What messages does the film send viewers about drinking and smoking pot? Do you think that's intentional?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love a good sci-fi romcom

Themes & Topics

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