Can a science fiction film exist without the science? I feel it can, but there are many who do not share that sentiment and those are the people who tend to dislike TIMEQUEST intensely because this is a film about time travel that has the audacity to mention not a single word about the technology that makes its story possible--it simply IS. It is hardly the first film to do this. TIME AFTER TIME hardly gives a logical explanation nor for that matter does the early film version of H.G. Wells' TIME MACHINE, but that didn't prevent us from being able to enjoy them. In TIMEQUEST we are simply asked to presume that it has been developed by a single man acting alone. It is the REASONS behind his need/desire to invent this device and what he intends to do with it as well as the repercussions of his actions on history that are the focus of this story--not a lot of pseudo-scientific babble and sleek shiny computer banks.
As I said, I feel a science fiction film CAN exist as more than a mere showcase for its technology, and the reason is because SF exists to ask the question "What if?" In this case the entire question is; What if a time traveler went back to November 22, 1963 with the intention of stopping the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and by extension that of his brother Robert 5 years later? Why would he do it? The answer appears simple on the surface because a great many of us would give anything to be able to go back to that horrible day and stop it all from happening if we only could...but our time traveler is motivated by something beyond merely wanting to set history right and change the world for what he is certain will be the better. Why does he wait until almost the last moment--why not pop in a couple of weeks before hand? How on earth does he manage to convince anyone that he's anything more than a nutcase when he shows up in the Presidential Suite of the hotel in what looks like a deep sea diver's outfit? And what is the message that he won't let Jackie hear--that only Jack and Bobby are privy to it? Lots of questions.
All of this could get terribly serious very quickly if it weren't for the film's unexpected sense of humor. The best part goes to Bruce Campbell playing against type as a futuristic maverick Hollywood director (read= Oliver Stone) who is firmly convinced that the Kennedy family has been involved in a cover-up for the last 37 years which he intends to reveal in his next film entitled NOVEMBER 22, 1963. He's right of course, although he could never begin to guess what it was that really happened on that date--much less what was supposed to have happened! Bruce's scenes also give us some funny examples of how stopping the assassination changed popular culture--for one thing John Lennon is still alive and still married to his first wife Cynthia, and the Beatles never really made it big in the states although they were fairly popular in Europe for awhile. As Bruce says, "kids just couldn't relate to them." I found the bombing of the Beatles to be an interesting sidelight in the film since many psychologists at the time theorized that their extreme popularity was a direct reaction to the trauma kids suffered as a result of JFK's death.
For a low budget film everything looks pretty slick and polished. Some have objected to the the film's decidedly nonlinear approach, but to me it seems the perfect way to tackle a story about time travel and the fact that almost every scene carries a date at the bottom made it very easy for me to follow. None of the actors resemble their real life counterparts physically, but most of the voices and accents are good matches. Luckily Caprice Benedetti in the critical role of Jacqueline Kennedy did not try mimic her voice--it wouldn't have worked at all and might even have sounded a bit silly. JFK isn't portrayed as a saint. His womanizing is brought out, and comes back to haunt him in a later scene when J. Edgar Hoover (nicely played by Larry Drake) tries to use some evidence of his infidelity as blackmail against him. Robert Kennedy is portrayed as ruthless in his determination to protect his brother from any and all dangers, and is more than a match for Hoover in the blackmail department when he has adequate warning.
Have you ever wondered how your own life might have been different if you had done this or that, gone here or there, went right instead of left? Even the slightest change in the most insignificant of lives can have a ripple effect that goes outward and touches others, and by extension so must their death. Who then is to say that the future shown in this silly little movie with its rose colored glasses might not actually occur if the leader of a powerful nation were to be spared assassination--especially if that man was aware that he was being given a second chance at life? It has been suggested that this film is only for die hard Kennedy fans. That might be true (it's definitely NOT for die hard right wingers who kneel down in the direction of Glenn Beck every night to say their prayers), but with the rebirth of hope that Obama is supposed to have brought to our nation maybe this film will serve as a delicate warning of the day an earlier generation saw the first of three death blows dealt to its own dreams and naivete and innocence, and remind them that such history is only set right in science fiction movies. Bummer, huh?
HYPE FACTOR: Virtually unknown film, deserves an audience, if only of die-hard Kennedy liberals