After the phenomenal success of 1985 sci-fi comedy Back to the Future, director Robert Zemeckis took the concept of a time-travel sequel to its logical conclusion: send the characters back in time to the original film. Part two takes up right where the first film ended, and finishes there too (as does part three). While time-traveling teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) solved the mom's-got-a-crush-on-me paradox of the first film by shredding a guitar onstage at a high school hop, the sequel challenged him with an alternate sad-sack future, not quite as easily remedied. Zemeckis shot parts two and three consecutively, released a year apart in 1989 and 1990, which may explain why the last part of the trilogy is less satisfying than its predecessors. Given another five years to ruminate on the possibilities, the creative minds behind the first two films could surely have made a movie that bent time, and our minds, even more. As it is, the journey ends with a fish-out-of-water story set in 1885, something akin to an unofficial remake of The Shakiest Gun in the West (and Fox is no Don Knotts, despite the Parkinson's). Still, the finale provides closure and good feelings all around, with a final shot of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) chugging off on a futuristic locomotive to continue to set things right in a world too often gone wrong. For a true head-spinning time-travel affair, check out 2004's The Butterfly Effect's vision of the extreme danger involved in trying to change the past.

Sat., May 30, 5 p.m., 2009

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