[Screen It]


(2021) (Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: A high school science teacher and other civilians are sent into the future to battle monsters that are close to wiping out all humans.

Dan Forester (CHRIS PRATT) is a military vet and current high school science teacher who's married to Emmy (BETTY GILPIN) with whom he has a nine-year-old daughter, Muri (RYAN KIERA ARMSTRONG). When he's passed over for a job he wanted, he thinks he must be meant for greater things but can't turn to his dad, James (J.K. SIMMONS), for advice, what with them being long estranged.

He gets the chance to step up when he, along with the rest of the world, is shocked to see military forces from the future, led by Lt. Hart (JASMINE MATHEWS), arrive in the present with a dire message. In the future, the world has been overrun by hard-to-kill monsters known as white spikes, and with the population now south of one million people, the future of humankind now rests in the hands of those in the present.

With a draft set up where everyday civilians are put into active duty for a seven-day stint in the future, Dan is finally called up and -- along with the likes of chatty Charlie (SAM RICHARDSON) and the far more solemn Dorian (EDWIN HODGE) who's now on his third tour -- Dan ends up in the year 2051 and immediately encounters and battles the huge monsters. He also ends up meeting a military scientist, Muri (YVONNE STRAHOVSKI), who's trying to come up with a biological weapon to use against them. With time running out for both of them, Dan does what he can to help and hopefully save the future for all humanity.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

A critic friend -- whose writing is far better than mine, especially since I'm usually worn-out listing and detailing all the content found in movies week in and week out -- recently made an interesting point. And that was that he had a clear disdain for the phrase "guilty pleasure."

He argued that no one should feel guilty about finding a movie pleasurable or entertaining, and instead should use an adjective such as "campy" to indicate that a film isn't swinging for any sort of Oscar grand slam. Yes, there are movies that are excellent, a bunch that are mediocre, and the rest that are bad.

And the latter come in two varieties. Those that are excruciating to watch, and the rest that are so bad that they're actually fun to wallow in as a viewer. And the "best" of them are the ones where those who've made them know it going in and lean hard into their campiness.

Having just sat through the 140 or so minutes that are "The Tomorrow War," I can say that it's close but no cigar in terms of getting that latter quality right. It certainly has the elements -- and nary an original bone in its cinematic body -- but it simply doesn't go far enough over the top to make it as goofily enjoyable as it should and likely could have been.

Part "Aliens" or "Starship Troopers" (you get to pick) and part pretty much any time travel flick where the world hangs in the balance, the story -- penned by Zach Dean -- revolves around military forces from the future who time travel to the present (or, more accurately, 2022) to inform the stunned soccer stadium crowd and those watching at home that things are bad in 2051.

As in, the human population has dropped to below a million and is dwindling fast at the hands, er, claws and spike-shooting tails of monsters that have a ravenous appetite for humans. With their military might dropping in numbers, they've arrived to recruit people from the present to fight for their world's future.

And thus our hero -- high school biology teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) who just knows he's destined for something significant in his life -- gets his draft notice that he's shipping out -- actually sucked into the air and then sort of quickly evaporated -- for his 7-day tour. It's never mentioned why it's only a week, whether it's a good idea to send civilians without weapons or combat training to fight a foe that they couldn't pick out of an alien monster lineup, or why Dan -- a combat vet who saw action in Iraq -- doesn't want to know any of the details, strategy, or plan.

All of which would understandably make his wife (Betty Gilpin) and 9-year-old daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) nervous that he might not make it back, although his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) doesn't seem particularly concerned.

In any event, and accompanied by a nervous chatterbox (Sam Richardson) and a solemn civilian sporting a "shut up, let's kill some monsters" mentality (Edwin Hodge), Dan is whisked away and literally crashes hard into the future. There, he eventually teams up with a military scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) who's leading the charge to find a way to kill the hungry critters and has a not terribly surprising connection to the soldier-turned-teacher-turned soldier.

What follows is lots of cautiously moving forward mixed with running around and shooting lots of "white spikes" (what the monsters are called, presumably for their tail ammo) that also kill lots of people. Which eventually leads to a loopy conclusion that you sort of have to see to believe (and that throws in some global warming messaging for good measure).

Despite its completely derivative nature, I enjoyed parts of the offering. I just wish director Chris McKay had dived more headfirst into the deep end of its campy nature that comes and goes throughout the flick much like the speedy monsters. Had that been the case, this could have been a cult classic like "Tremors."

As it stands, it certainly has moments that qualify for that, but not enough nor a consistent tone in going that route. Decent enough as a diversion but something that could have been so much more of a full-on, guilty… -- check that, campy pleasure, "The Tomorrow War" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 29, 2021 / Posted July 2, 2021

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