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Back in the Day

2014 | 94 min | R | 1.85:1

Back in the Day


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Theatrical release date

 17 January, 2014

Country of origin

 United States



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Back in the Day


Back in the Day Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 16, 2014

A high school reunion movie without the actual reunion? That’s what writer/director/star Michael Rosenbaum attempts to pull off with “Back in the Day,” a comedy tinged with nostalgia that supplies viewers with a subpar round of juvenile shenanigans and lackluster acts of pining. Rosenbaum’s intent seems pure enough, but his concepts for comedy and intimacy leave much to be desired, making the picture difficult to understand as it weaves through heartfelt confessions and fart jokes. The lack of an actual reunion is also a bizarre choice, with space for mingling and thirtysomething philosophy punted out of the picture to make room for unpleasant and unfunny nonsense.

The face of an insurance company, Jim (Michael Rosenbaum) is struggling with an acting career in Los Angeles, with dwindling opportunities blending with an increasingly hostile environment. Sensing an opportunity to reconnect with his teenage self, Jim returns to his Indiana hometown for his high school reunion, marking two decades sense he abandoned his friends and his one true love, Lori (Morena Baccarin). Greeting him are T (Isaiah Mustafa), Len (Kristoffer Polaha), and Skunk (Harland Williams), commencing a weekend of drinking, games, and tomfoolery. Jim also stumbles across Lori, who’s engaged to real estate champ Mark (Jay Ferguson), complicating his designs of seduction. With the gang back together, and Principal Teagley (Mike Hagerty) still upset over a prank pulled 20 years ago, Jim and boys regress to their juvenile selves, forced to accept maturation as the past remains in the past, unable to be revived.

Rosenbaum makes his feature-length directorial debut with “Back in the Day,” and the need to please floods the picture from the opening scenes. Although it’s working with a tried and true high school reunion concept, the picture strangely refuses the opportunity to stage its showdowns and high jinks at the actual event, spending only a few minutes of screen time inside Jim’s old school, quickly moving the action to a football field before leaving the celebration altogether. Perhaps gymnasium rentals are cost prohibitive these days, but the lack of a party in a film about a party makes the effort anticlimactic, leaving Jim’s lovelorn ways to play out in suburban houses and on the street, keeping “Back in the Day” visually mundane. It’s an odd choice to avoid the organized reunion, with Rosenbaum’s motivations difficult to understand. To the production, time is better spent watching Skunk enjoy a bowel movement on his toilet than at ground zero for unfinished business.

Even with a low budget, Rosenbaum pipes in some musical hits from the 1990s and attempts to revive the feeling of lost youth with games of wiffle ball and acts of vandalism with Jim and gang. However, “Back in the Day” isn’t interested in the sweater-wrap of nostalgia, keeping the Class of 1994 at arm’s length as the script pays closer attention to Jim’s arc of realization as he returns to his hometown, growing aware of the friends he left behind and his feelings for Lori. The restraint is interesting, but it doesn’t result in bigger laughs or deeper pathos as it should. Instead, “Back in the Day” misses a grand opportunity to squeeze its characters, extracting pure personality as each member deals with days gone by. Rosenbaum doesn’t have that level of patience, content to make flaccid sex jokes, fixate on bathroom humor (one scene is devoted to Skunk teaching his son how cup and throw farts), and stage a running gag featuring former popular girl Angie (Liz Carey), who spends the movie drinking and smoking while pregnant. Because fetal alcohol syndrome is hilarious, right?

“Back in the Day” should be sharper, more inventive with its sense of humor and profound with its emotions. There’s a willing cast assembled here, finding Baccarin naturally appealing as Lori, while Ferguson refuses to amplify Mark’s mildly unsavory qualities (in the win column, the character isn’t a one-note pig to expedite Lori’s climactic commitment decision), but charm isn’t enough to lift the effort off the ground, giving the story the significance it deserves. Rosenbaum elects to play the film casually, mostly as a goof, more excited to manufacture a graphic scene of dual bathroom vomiting while the potential of piece evaporates, leaving a dreary, inconsequential feature behind. It’s a shame.

Starring: Michael Rosenbaum, Morena Baccarin, Harland Williams, Nick Swardson, Jay R. Ferguson, Emma Caulfield
Director: Michael Rosenbaum

» See full cast & crew

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Back in the Day... 58 Feb 17, 2009

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