Review by Bears Rebecca Fonte
Time travel films are absolutely my favorite so I was super pumped to watch the new Mega Time Squad from New Zealand director Tim van Dammen. Johnny (Anton Tennet) is a small-time crook looking to make his own luck. When a job stealing money from a local Chinese gang goes wrong, Johnny stumbles into a bracelet that allows him to time travel minutes back in time. After using the device to escape, he then thinks bigger and uses the Chinese artifact to make his mark, armed with a squad of Time Travelers, i.e. several versions of himself.
This isn’t a film like PRIMER where you want to chart to understand the intricacies of the multiple timelines. In fact, the film never really does a good job of explaining how time travel works in this reality or exploiting any of the possible paradoxes that make time travel films so great. Moreover, by creating multiple versions of the lead character, the film plays more like MULTIPLICITY than TIME CRIMES. Fortunately, Tennet’s Johnny is eminently likeable and very funny. So while the film does lack that sort of ‘sciency’ science fiction that time travel fans go crazy for, it does play out as an amusing heist film with a nice love story and some truly laugh-out-loud moments.
Where are the film fails is with the constant barrage of offensive slurs made by the antagonist. Resembling the ravings of a seventh grader more than a fully drawn character, Shelton (played by WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOW’s Johnny Brugh) hurls insults after insults in a way calculated to make the audience cringe and laugh at the same time. And while there are some cheap laughs achieved, one can’t help but think there were better laughs more difficult to obtain that were left on the table. Another issue with MEGA TIME SQUAD is that the multiple versions of Johnny get really confusing and don’t really add a whole lot to the story. Unlike Michael-Keaton-multiples who each embody a certain personality, all these Johnnys really just add up to more of the same and confusion for the audience. Because the device only allows somebody to go back two minutes in time, that person is really going to be the same person as experiences in 2 minutes don’t really change somebody. It is a failing in the central construction of the script and unavoidable but it does make the time-travel elements to this film significantly less interesting then it could be. That said, in the ever-diminishing world of genre comedy, MEGA TIME SQUAD does offer some amusement and should play well at genre festivals desperately in need of some laughs.