Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Shawn Doyle, Elizabeth Mitchell, Andre Braugher, Noah Emmerich, Melissa Errico, Daniel Henson, Jordan Bridges, Stephen Joffe, Jack McCormack, Peter MacNeill, Michael Cera, Marin Hinkle, Richard Sali
Written by: Toby Emmerich
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images
Running Time: 118
Date: 04/28/2000

Frequency (2000)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Ham Fisted Ham Radio

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I love time travel stories. Aliens and asteroids I can live without. But give me a good time travel story any day. The new movie Frequency, written by Toby Emmerich and directed by Gregory Hoblit, comes up with a doozy. And then, like a kid who builds and details a lovely sand castle on the beach and then stomps all over it, the movie is completely destroyed in the last 15 minutes.

An old ham radio set is the centerpiece of Frequency. A cop named John (Jim Caviezel, from 1998's The Thin Red Line) finds his dad's old radio and fires it up. His dad, Frank, (Dennis Quaid) was a firefighter who died in 1969. But through the aid of the Northern Lights, the two men are able to speak to each other over the airwaves across 30 years. John is able to tell Frank how he's died so that the event can be prevented.

As usual, when mere mortals meddle with time, different little things begin to happen. John's mother (still alive in 1999) suddenly disappears. The strangest thing is that a serial killer, who had disappeared in 1969 after three killings, re-emerges with seven more bodies on his record. So father and son use time to try and figure out who the killer is and catch him. This idea works well for a long time. The movie contains genuine suspense and surprise with little special effects or unnecessary exposition. The dialogue even rings true.

But there's trouble in paradise. When the killer is finally revealed (notable by his evil-looking face) he pulls a Jason from the Friday the 13th series, and dies and comes back to life three or four times. Not to mention that several stupid and badly filmed chase and fight scenes are thrown in for no reason. If the movie had had the sense to end when things were still unfolding slowly and thoughtfully, we might have had something. But the way the last 15 minutes comes crashing down on us is absolutely unforgivable. This is worse than seeing a completely bad movie because we've been betrayed into liking these characters for more than an hour.

Now that the movie is completely ruined, I'll nit-pick a few other things that bugged me. Director Hoblit resorts to the unbearably cliché and annoying practice of shaking the camera whenever something suspenseful is going on. Here's a tip--when the shaky camera thing was invented, it was used only in wide shots covering a lot of space so that we could still SEE what was going on. The best uses of this are in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996). Hoblit goes into close up and then shakes the camera around so that we can see maybe a glimpse of someone's eye or hand, but that's it. The beginning of the film showing us what a brave and resourceful fireman Frank is feels lame and tacked-on. And a horrible coda that lasts an interminable 3 minutes shows us that Everything Is Going To Be Just Fine accompanied to a song that never should have seen the light of day.

Frequency made me angry. I can't even recommend going for the good 60 or 70 minutes because the rotten 20 minutes completely outweigh it. There's such a huge downfall from good to bad that I feel like the filmmakers deliberately tried to ruin the end of the movie. You will regret plunking down your pennies for this and being treated like a moron.

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