FREQUENCY(director: Gregory Hoblit; screenwriter: Toby Emmerich; cinematographer: Alar Kivilo; editor: David Rosenbloom; cast: Dennis Quaid (Frank Sullivan), Jim Caviezel (John Sullivan), Noah Emmerich (Gordo Hersch), Shawn Doyle (Jack Shepard ), Elizabeth Mitchell (Julia Sullivan), Andre Braugher (Satch DeLeon), Jordan Bridges (Graham Gibson),Melissa Errico (Samantha Thomas), Daniel Henson (Johnny Sullivan (6 years)); Runtime: 118; New Line Cinema; 2000)
“To buy into this half-baked sci-fi wannabe, one has to have a suspension of disbelief and of all rational thought.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A far-fetched and schmaltzy Hollywood-style mainstream tale about time travel. Frank Sullivan is played by Dennis Quaid, the man permanently blessed with the benign Jack Nicholson smile. He’s a heroic firefighter living in Bayside, Queens, which is a nice middle-class area with private homes one next to the other.
Frank died in a fire at an abandoned warehouse on October 12, 1969 but, hold onto your N.Y. Mets baseball cap for this one, his son makes contact via a Heathkit ham radio (those cheap kind that were built from a kit) with his deceased father on October 10, 1999. The son, John (Jim Caviezel), is now 36-years-old and is a police homicide detective, still living in the same house he was born in. The explanation for this phenomena, causing them to transmit via short-wave radio and have contact with one another while not seeing each other even though they are transmitting in the same house, is that there were two freak electrical storms occurring thirty years apart during an aurora borealis — the Northern Lights — which somehow interacted with the ham radio and enabled them to communicate (right!). You are also asked to swallow this additional pill: after confirming that he is speaking with his father, he gives his dad information via the ham radio that will now allow him to escape from the abandoned warehouse fire and avoid his death.
To buy into this half-baked sci-fi wannabe, one has to have a suspension of disbelief and of all rational thought.
The time travel plot makes it possible for father and son to team up to stop a serial killer, altering events that already happened by rewriting the past. If the catch-the-killer subplot had any real suspense, I might have bit more for this nonsense story line. But that thriller part doesn’t even hold up with your average TV detective show. As a result the film veers away from what made it so appealing in the first place, a father and son who didn’t know each other have been given another chance through the ham radio to have a meaningful relationship. But this story is unfortunately overtaken by its weak serial killer story. Thereby the film is reduced to overreaching its credibility by confusingly switching back and forth between past and future events, sloppily changing one for the other until nothing made sense. You have to keep changing both simultaneously to alter both dimensions, and the film fails to accomplish that story line with accurate details.
If you buy into the premise, which is the only way to sit through this film, then you will be rewarded by the following subplots: a lot of baseball nostalgia about those “Amazin'” Mets winning the 1969 World Series; seeing an endearing relationship develop between father and son, that is filled with mutual love; the preventing of the so-called Nightingale serial killer of the opportunity to kill all the 10 nurses he supposedly killed, including John’s mother; watching the NYFD in action fighting fires; and, lastly, you might feel that there is hope even after death of seeing your relations coming back as much as thirty years later and even playing softball with you, which makes this the ultra in ‘feel good’ movies. Oh, yeah, you also get tips on future stocks, like Yahoo!, which you can take that inside time travel tip to your future stock broker and eventually buy a Mercedes Benz with the killing you’ll make in the market.
The acting was surprisingly good, despite the outlandish script. Dennis Quaid is a throwback father — one that many a child would gladly appreciate. James Caviezel is convincing as a possible alcoholic, a moody workaholic detective, and someone unhappy with his unmarried life feeling that there is something missing in his life. Some really fine supporting performances are provided by: “Homicide’s” Andre Brougher as a detective–he is Frank’s best friend and John’s current boss; Noah Emmerich is John’s best friend and neighbor from his childhood (he is the brother of the film’s screenwriter); Shawn Doyle makes for a creepy serial killer; and, Elizabeth Mitchell sweetly plays her one-dimensional role as Frank’s wife Julia, a wonderful mother to John, a dedicated nurse, and a potential victim of the serial killer.
If the film did one thing right it showed a family that was really together and good to see on the screen, especially with all the recent films mostly showing only dysfunctional families. It was refreshing to see one for a change with a father as a good role model, even if some might find this relationship too corny.
Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear/Fallen) has fallen into the trap of going overboard in his use of sentimentality, which overtakes the film and makes it too gooey for comfort. Also, his directing suffers from an inability to tell a good detective story. And, unfortunately, the time travel story does not hold up to any intelligent scrutiny. It’s the kind of movie that should find its own audience with those who find the father/son relationship meaningful and find the time travel concept to be entertaining despite its lack of credibility as presented.
REVIEWED ON 5/6/2000 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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