“I’m gonna miss this place.”
Actor Bruce Campbell has attained an enormous cult fan base mostly thanks to his role as Ash, the klutzy yet wisecracking demon fighter from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. But Campbell’s follow-up to the first Evil Dead had nothing to do with Deadites or supernatural slapstick. Instead, it was a nostalgia piece, a kind-hearted drama meant as a throwback to simpler times.
It’s 1964. Brice (Campbell) and his pal Cleveland (Christopher Howe, Timequest) hit the road, with the intent to spend their last summer before college on an adventure, hitchhiking across the countryside. They eventually meet Jack Bodell (Perry Mallette, Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except), a crusty but likable old man living out in the middle of nowhere. Brice and Cleveland decide to stay for a few weeks. Cleveland bonds with Jack, enjoying his many stories about his former military days. Brice, meanwhile, romances a neighbor girl Cindy (Susan Waderlow Yamasaki). Eventually, the summer winds down, and everyone says their goodbyes. Jump to four years later, and the ’60s have gotten a lot more tumultuous. Brice and Cleveland run into each other after drifting apart during college. They decide, on a whim, to pay another visit to Jack. Will they be able to recapture the magic of that one summer, or will the quaint countryside not be what they remember?
Those used to the craziness of Bruce Campbell’s other starring roles might be put off by the slow pace of Going Back. There are long stretches of movie in which the plot does not advance at all, with the characters just hanging out, swapping stories, and basically doing nothing. But that’s all right, because writer and director Ron Teachworth is shooting for a very specific tone here. In his effort to create the perfect nostalgic summer, Teachworth has crafted the film equivalent of sitting on a front porch with friends, chatting as you watch the sunset. As you watch the movie, waves of comfort and contentment flow out of the screen and wrap themselves around you until all that’s left of you is nothing but a small puddle of pure liquid relaxation.
Anyone who’s ever tried to recapture the past—and I’m guessing that’s most of you—will know where the second half of the movie is going before the characters get there. But that’s all right as well, because chances are viewers will be able to relate to this experience. Even though you know in your heart what the guys are in store for, you take the journey with them anyway. This raises a lot of interesting questions. Even if you can’t go back again, is it still worth it to make the effort? Does going back ruin the memories you once had, or does it make them even more precious in your mind? Going Back answers these questions in its own way, while also leaving them open enough for you to ponder on your own.
Campbell was indeed very young when this one was made, but his role is that of a freewheeling young guy, so he does just fine. Some of the dialogue he has to say is a little on the corny side, especially the more romantic stuff, but he sells it nicely, as he usually does. Howe and Mallette are equally good as the two strangers of different ages who form a sort of father-son friendship. Susan Waderlow Yamasaki had no acting experience at the time, and, as such, was cast for her “girl next door” quality. Although lovely, she’s not the typical Hollywood starlet, and adds some realism to the film with her presence.
Teachworth gives the entire film a soft look, intentionally, to capture that nostalgic feel. A few classic cars and a scene shot in an old-fashioned downtown contribute to capturing the period look of the movie. Mostly, though, it takes place in the open country, as the characters stroll around farmlands, open fields, and back roads. The DVD transfer captures these soft visuals nicely with an anamorphic picture. The 2.0 sound is not booming, but it does its job.
Campbell’s fans already know how much fun he can be on a commentary track, and that’s the case here as well. He’s joined by Teachworth and director of photography John Prusak, but the commentary is Campbell’s show all the way through. The movie might be a thoughtful drama, but Campbell’s numerous sarcastic jabs at it are hilarious. Teachworth returns for an interview featurette, which also reveals some behind the scenes footage. A trailer and a photo gallery round out the extras.
This is not a flashy film. It’s a simple story told in a simple way. If you’re tired of explosion-laden blockbusters giving you headaches, then give this one a shot for some low-key, slice-of-life nostalgia. Add another winning Bruce Campbell commentary and you’ve got an excellent DVD to add to your collection.