The Present (2024) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: The Present (2024)

The Present is a fun, yet flawed, movie that combines two familiar genres — the family movie, and science-fiction — for an enjoyable enough time for anyone who might be scrolling through their favorite streaming service looking for an easy watch. This low-budget indie comes from “Love, Rosie” director, Christian Ditter, and “Get Hard” writer, Jay Martel. Together they spin a story featuring fun time travel antics and divorce problems. While that sounds like polar opposites, the story brings both these opposites hand in hand for better or worse.

The story kicks off with a mysterious clock being shipped to the Diehl residence. Without much pause, it’s thrown into the basement to rot away. Taylor (Easton Rocket Sweda), a mute boy who speaks through various AI voices on his iPad, fixes the clock and discovers he can turn back time just by changing the hour hand. At the same time, his parents (Greg Kinnear, “Phil” and Isla Fisher, “Blithe Spirit”) have warned the kids of an important meeting that will be happening later that night, everyone knows it’s a talk about a trial separation for the two of them. Taylor, alongside his two other siblings (Shay Rudolph, “I Wish You All the Best” and Mason Shea Joyce, “Hotel Artemis”), devises a plan to bring their family back together.

The familiar “Groundhog Day” trope is far from new, but it works best when it’s combined with new genres — movies like “Timecrimes,” or “Palm Springs” are great examples. The Present does a good job of combining comedy and romance into this looping day — we not only see the same day from many different angles, but also from many different perspectives in the family.

The problems with this film arise when the focus is placed on the adult relationships, specifically the core relationship with Greg Kinnear and Isla Fisher’s characters. Their emotions and motives are so volatile towards one another that it is amazing that the relationship has even lasted as long as it has. It feels like one slight misstep and the marriage is over, no matter the interjections. While there are some definite sweet moments between the couple, I can recall one where Kinnear’s character reluctantly gets a makeover and shows up to therapy looking as dashing as ever, it never breaks into the level of maturity we should expect from these role types. Despite commanding around the kids, the adults often act just as childlike as their younger counterparts, creating eye-rolls for much of the 86-minute runtime.

It’s a good thing then that a majority of the screen time is given to the kids in the family who abuse their time travel powers in many fun and exciting ways. Many scenes are shown multiple times from multiple angles giving the audiences that “Ah-ha!” moment time and time again as we watch the kids scheme up a master plan to bring their parents back together. There is an excellent montage sequence late in the film that I wish all time-shift movies had. The kids try everything under the sun to get the parents together whether it’s manipulating the stock market to one of them even faking their own death. Great stuff.

For a majority of The Present, the kids are tweaking and mastering this single grand plan until nothing could possibly go wrong, oddly though this plan is abandoned late in the third act and rather we get a generic and head-scratching ending to it all. Despite the lackluster conclusion, the movie features enough quaint jokes and silly time travel hi-jinks that it will definitely be fun for a whole family viewing.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
3 Star Rating: Average


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