The Spirit of ’76 (1990)

thespiritof76

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Get ready for a wild time travel ride into the decadent 70’s in this underrated comedy from some second generation filmmakers.

A magnetic storm has destroyed all points of history in the year 2176. The Ministry of Knowledge have revived the last person who knows the origins of United States history. Just before the man dies, the Ministry has learned about the birth of the United States on July 4, 1776. Determined to bring America back to what it was, the Ministry hires Heinz-57 and Chanel-6 to find Adam-11, who has developed a time machine so he can live his dream of going to “Ikiki” Beach. At first, Adam is not on par with the duo until they promise him the ingredient he needs to power up the machine, tetrahydrozaline.

As the trio begin their time travel adventure, they think they have arrived in the year 1776. However, a glitch in the circuit has revealed that they have actually arrived on the bicentennial on July 4, 1976. The two instantly befriend two local boys, Steve and Tommy while Rodney Snodgrass, an annoying kid, notices the machine and plans to use it for the science fair. When Rodney’s attempt destroyed the engine needed for the machine, the trio along with Steve and Tommy, must evade the FBI and find a way to create a new engine before they are stuck in the 70’s.

It’s time for a nostalgic trip as a generation of fans will get their kicks of 1970’s insanity. The film was directed by Lucas Reiner, the son of Carl Reiner and brother of Rob Reiner. Carl and Rob make cameos in the film with the former playing the last man who teaches the Ministry of Knowledge about the birth of the nation while Rob plays a motivational speaker. Lucas co-wrote the film with Roman Coppola, the son of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and sister/filmmaker Sofia Coppola designed the film’s retro costumes, which look great in the film.

The cast is led by the late David Cassidy, who sports a style similar to his iconic Keith Partridge character, in the role of time traveler Adam-11. Olivia D’Abo and Geoff Hoyle provide both the eye candy and comic relief respectively as Chanel-6 and Heinz-57, Adam’s cohorts on this trip. The film also has some famous musicians from the group Devo playing the Ministry of Knowledge and the force behind indie rock band Redd Kross, Jeff and Steve McDonald, in the pivotal roles of Chris and Tommy, the two best buds who help the time travelers on their quest to return home. In a near end-credit scene, Chris and Tommy are showing Adam what foods are popular during that time that ends as a blooper for Cassidy.

The 70’s are truly alive in the film with the numerous fads and cameos. Look out for Tommy Chong playing (what else?) a stoner in a smoke shop with his wife Shelby playing the proprietor of the shop. Mission: Impossible’s Barbara Bain plays a woman at the motivational speaker’s conference who plays a pivotal role for the trio getting some rare items for their history trip. She is also the mother of the film’s producer Susie Landau. Leif Garrett, the 70’s teen idol, plays “Eddie Trojan”, a self-proclaimed disco king who has eyes for Chanel-6 and teaches her how to dance. Even the legendary Iron Eyes Cody, known for his famous commercial where he is seen crying, appears as himself giving Adam some pristine advice. The Kipper Kids themselves, Martin Von Haselberg and Brian Routh, play FBI agents who mistake the time travelers for aliens.

While the film was made and released in 1990, in an age where nostalgia is in today, this is definitely one film to enjoy with its 70’s fads and appearances. Better yet, take this film and make it a double feature with the 1993 film Dazed and Confused as this is a underrated 70’s-set/time travel comedy.

WFG RATING: B+

A Commercial Pictures and Castle Rock Entertainment Production. Director: Lucas Reiner. Producer: Susie Landau. Writers: Lucas Reiner and Roman Coppola. Cinematography: Stephen Lighthill. Editing: Glen Scantlebury.

Cast: David Cassidy, Olivia D’Abo, Geoff Hoyle, Jeff McDonald, Steve McDonald, Martin Von Haselberg, Brian Routh, Barbara Bain, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Julie Brown, Tommy Chong, Shelby Chong, Leif Garrett, Liam O’Brien, Moon Zappa.

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