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Interstate 60
2002 - Not Rated - 118 Mins.
Director: Bob Gale
Starring: James Marsden, Gary Oldman, Christopher Lloyd, Kurt Russell, Michael J. Fox, Amy Smart, Ann-Margret, Chris Cooper
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Interstate 60" is about a highway that doesn't seem to exist, yet somewhere in between two highways in Louisiana it does, indeed, exist. The main character of the film has a hard time trying to find it at first, for his destiny lies somewhere upon the seemingly non-existent highway.

People looking for "Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road" may have just as hard a time looking for the movie itself, as it was not theatrically released, has not been released on DVD, but continues to circulate around small theaters and film festivals since 2002, in search of more eager viewers who will no doubt be both surprised and inspired by the film's truthfulness and sense of morals.

But yet "Interstate 60" plays like anything but a Surgeon General's warning. It isn't as openly strict or hard-nosed. It has a sort of subtle warning inside it that lets the viewer decide what it is about. It's a film that stays with you after it's over, and that's a rare thing these days.

It all starts with a rich kid named Neal Oliver (James Marsden, "X-Men"). Neal's 22nd birthday has just arrived, and with it a shiny-red BMW sports car, with the license plate specially modeled after his father's own personal motto. In fact, the entire convertible seems to be modeled after Neal's father's own tastes. "I woulda killed to have something like this when I was your age," his dad mutters. We have a feeling he really would have, too.

Neal makes a wish for his birthday, to find a meaning to his life. It is overheard by an odd man named O.W. Grant (full name: One Wish Grant), who decides to grant Neal his wish - by sending a painter's bucket flying from above, only to come to a stop on Neal's skull.

Out of it for a while, Neal wakes up again and finds his perception noticeably different. He notices things he never noticed before; his senses are more acute. A strange doctor named Ray (Christopher Lloyd) explains a thing or two about perception and blindness to Neal, before Neal finds out there is no doctor on the staff at the hospital named Ray (though that seems a bit odd, don't you think?).

Neal meets Ray again in a skyscraper, where Ray gives Neal a job to transport a small briefcase to Denvar (yes, DenVAR), a small town located along I-60. Neal reluctantly agrees to go on this journey in hopes of finding a girl he can't rid his mind of, and so he finally locates this nonexistent highway. Along his journey he once again meets O.W. Grant (Gary Oldman), as well as Laura (Amy Jo Johnson), a woman seeking as much sex as possible; a cop (Kurt Russell) in a small drug-infested town; an ex-advertising agent played by Chris Cooper; and finally he finds the girl of his dreams (literally), Lynn (Amy Smart). Along his journey, Neal comes to terms with himself and who he really is, and though this is predictable the way the film gets the message across is more than ingenius.

The writer and director of the film is Bob Gale, the man most people will always remember as the creator and sole writer of the three "Back to the Future" films. Gale tried his hand at directing a few times, including the 1995 "interfilm" called "Mr. Payback," which I have not seen but have heard is a supposedly horrid excuse for a film. "Interstate 60" is not - it is a cleverly-written little film that avoided being released into the mainstream, and for a reason: It didn't want to become Hollywoodized. It hasn't. And it shows.

"Interstate 60" reminds me very much of another low-budget film, this one a Christian comedy, called "Road to Redemption." They are both road movies well-grounded in morals and at the same time entertaining. There are some important messages in "Interstate 60," and the film should be seen by everyone. It has messages about promiscuous sex, drugs, and learning to be who you are and not be influenced by others. There's a scene where a mother takes an enslavement drug just so she can be with her son, who is also drugged up. This message carries more than it appears to. And yet the film never becomes overbearing or preachy - Gale knows how to fit some important messages into the film without turning it into a seminar on the evils of the world and how to avoid them.

"Interstate 60" is unmistakably a low-budget film, but it is all the better for it. It has some important messages that really should be seen by everyone. In a time when films like "Gigli" are invading the film market, this is a breath of fresh air, a step towards a better side of filmmaking, a side with morals for today's youth and future generations.

Which leaves me with a closing statement for my review: One thing that "Interstate 60" did not need was all the swearing. Sure, there's a scene with Michael J. Fox where he swears up a storm that is pretty funny, but it wasn't really needed in the film. This is a film that should definitely be seen by everyone of all ages, but unfortunately some language and sexual dialogue gets in the way of this. I think that Gale should rally for an edited version of the film, like those Church videos passed around that are edited for families. There are some great messages in this film, it's a shame that the majority of moviegoers and families seeking quality films will never even hear of this film, much less see it.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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