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Hollywood’s Leftovers: The “Other” Back to the Future

By  · Published on November 25th, 2016

The case for Doc Hollywood as a great post-Thanksgiving movie.

Once the turkey is consumed, the dishes put away, and a political ceasefire is finally called between various uncles and cousins, the Thanksgiving aftermath produces a malaise of fatigue perfectly suited to film consumption.

You find yourself wanting to watch Back to the Future, because you’re an upstanding human being. Easy choice considering it’s a film franchise on which your whole family can agree, because they too are upstanding humans…Uncle Jimbo’s questionable electoral preferences notwithstanding. But you’ve watched all three Back to the Future films countless times, and, much like mom’s homemade pecan pie, too much of a good thing can be perilous.

We here at the Junkfood Cinema podcast recognize that the day after Thanksgiving is prime time for two activities: engaging in shopping practices akin to a devilish social experiment, and eating leftovers. We therefore offer you an alternative to rewatching Back to the Future that, while not technically housed within the franchise, will feel like the best BTTF leftovers you could possibly imagine.

1991’s Doc Hollywood stars Marty, err, Michael J. Fox as a brash young doctor on his way to Los Angeles to interview for a job at an absurdly “upscale” plastic surgery firm. Along the way, he takes the wrong highway detour and ends up crashing into the picket fence of a small town judge. This action not only wrecks his sports car, but also finds him sentenced to thirty-two hours of community service serving as this tiny hamlet’s primary physician.

Now here we have a cocky city kid trapped by both automotive difficulties and his own mistakes in a place where it seems to be the 1950s. Are we speaking of Doc Hollywood or Back to the Future? Yes. There is even an older doctor character who counsels our young hero, though arguably far more begrudgingly than did Doc Brown.

What is the most fascinating facet of this comparison is that Doc Hollywood seeks to construct the heart of its story as painstakingly as Back to the Future sought to craft its plot; the latter screenplay to this day taught as an exemplar in film schools. However, the emotional discipline of Doc Hollywood trumps (at the very least) the watered-down story of the third actual Back to the Future film.

Sometimes Back to the Future leftovers are superior to reheated Back to the Future sequels.

For more on this “Diet Back to the Future,” and explanations of how Pixar seems to have heavily borrowed this early 90s comedy, listen to our Junkfood Cinema episode.

As a special treat, anyone who backs JFC on Patreon will have access to a weekly bonus episodes covering an additional cult movie, a new movie in theaters, or a mailbag episode devoted to your submitted questions! Have a couple bucks to throw in the hat, we’ll reward you!

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.