Interstate 60 (2002) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for language and sexual references
Running Time: 112 min.

Cast: James Marsden, Gary Oldman, Chris Cooper, Amy Smart, Christopher Lloyd
Director:  Bob Gale
Screenplay: Bob Gale

Review published January 3, 2003

Bob Gale is best known as the creator and screenwriter for the Back to the Future series, and Interstate 60 continues to develop themes on modern culture by taking us on a journey into the realm of The Twilight Zone.  Fans of the Back to the Future movies will delight in seeing the two stars of the film make brief appearances in Gale's latest fantasy, and also Kurt Russell (3000 Miles to Graceland, Soldier), who appeared in another Gale scripted cult film, Used Cars.  This should tell you that Gale likes a bit of in-jokes in his movies, but don't avoid Interstate 60 because you think you won't get them, as none of the jokes seem out of place for those who aren't attuned to them.

Gale casts James Marsden (X-Men, Gossip) as Neal, just graduating from school and struggling with his own need for self-expression.  Although an artist as a hobby, expressing himself is something that doesn't come easy for Neal with a loving father that tries to paint his son in his own image, an image that Neal doesn't see for himself.  After being given a convertible for a graduation gift, exactly the type of car Neal's father would have wanted for himself, Neal suffers a nasty conk on the head from a dropping paint pail.  When he awakens, he finds that his perceptions are different, seeing things which aren't visible to anyone else.  One such sight includes an attractive girl on a billboard (Smart, Rat Race), the type of girl Neal would very much like to meet, and with the urging of a whimsically strange man named O.W. (Oldman, Hannibal), he accepts a job delivering a mysterious package and sets about on a journey across a mythical highway called Interstate 60, in hopes of meeting the girl of his dreams.

This marks Gale's first attempt directing a feature film, and it looks like he picked up a trick or two from Robert Zemeckis in how to make such an allegorical fantasy work.  Just like the Back to the Future series, the tone has undercurrents of seriousness, yet the moments of drama still play light, never straying too far from the comedy to lose its sense of humor.  Being a road trip movie, there's the expected variety of personalities and settings, some more interesting than others.  Interstate 60 definitely does hold your interest with lots of amusing observations on society, as well as some smart musings on individualism vs. being part of the crowd.  This is a very Zen-like style of filmmaking, where our protagonist must keep his eye steadfastly on the prize, while there are lots of detours and detractions meant to keep him from achieving his goal. 

The cast is extremely likeable, with Oldman adding another memorably kooky performance to his already impressive collection.  The same goes for Chris Cooper (The Patriot, American Beauty) , who might have one of the most intriguing characters of the film, a person who hates liars so much he's willing to kill to see the truth be told.  It's fun to see all of the cameo appearances from the stars, and also to watch them perform in over-the-top but fun fashion.  Marsden looks and acts like a young Tom Cruise, especially as he was in Jerry Maguire, but it's one of his best roles so it's hard to complain.  I do have to say that his notions of rejecting his father's convertible troubles me somewhat, seeming incredibly too rude and self-centered, and not really in keeping with the Zen-type feel.

Interstate 60 will definitely appeal to people who like smart independent films with lots of humorous characters and especially for fans of "The Twilight Zone" style of stories.  Finding this film may be as difficult as finding the mythical Interstate 60 itself, but to those who do, you will be rewarded with just as much fun and adventure. 

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo