Time Travel Thursday: Time Toys (2016)
Time travel tropes6
Matthew Turner | On 24, Sep 2020
Director: Mark Rosman
Cast: Griffin Cleveland, JJ Totah, Jaden Betts, Samuel Gilbert, Ed Begley Jr
Watch Time Toys online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Has Tenet whetted your appetite for more time travel titilation? Transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursdays, our column devoted to time travel movies. It’s on Thursdays.
Written and directed by Mark Rosman, Time Toys is a low-budget adventure movie aimed primarily at a pre-teen audience. It has an engaging central premise, but is let down by a lack of imagination in the script and direction.
The film opens with greedy billionaire Billy Weller (Greg Germann) and science genius Franklin (Parvesh Cheena) opening a time portal and bringing through a mysterious box from 25 years in the future. When something goes wrong with the coordinates, the box winds up in the local neighbourhood, where it’s found by Matt (Griffin Cleveland), Boomer (JJ Totah), Eddie (Jaden Betts) and Mel (Samuel Gilbert), a group of bullied middle-school friends known as “the Zeroes”.
Breaking open the box, the Zeroes discover a collection of futuristic toys, including super-speed shoes, super-strength gloves, a cap that increases brain power and a mask that can mould itself into any face the user sees. Effectively endowed with super-powers, the boys use the toys to exact revenge on local bully Bryce (Evan Roe), but soon realise they have bigger problems on their hands – namely, an apocalypse that will take place unless Weller’s evil plan is thwarted.
Given the film’s obviously low budget, the special effects on the titular time toys are surprisingly good, particularly the Mission: Impossible-style face mask. Similarly, the time machine (more accurately a time portal generator) may not be on screen all that much, but it looks convincing, thanks to some flashy CGI work.
The main problem is that writer-director Rosman has no idea how to get the most out of his premise. The toys have so much potential, but all they really get used for is running rings around Bryce on the basketball court in an indulgent sequence that goes on too long. There are some other thematically interesting ideas – notably Matt using the mask to pose as a teen idol in order to speak to school crush Jenny (Mackenzie Aladjem) – but any resulting consequences are quickly waved aside by the script rather than explored in any depth.
On top of that, the acting is generally quite poor, even from seasoned performers such as Ed Begley Jr – who plays Wiz, an apparently homeless former scientist who helps the kids. Everyone in the cast comes across like they’re trying just that little bit too hard. The film’s attempts at humour feel equally forced, eventually resorting to gross-out material with the deployment of a “poop gun” (no doubt that’s a big hit in the future).
The kids make a likeable enough group and the film moves along with a decent amount of energy, even if the paper-thin plot means that nothing much really happens. There’s also a commendable commitment to delivering strong messages appropriate to its intended audience.
As for the time travel tropes, the film’s most intriguing element is the fact that one of the kids gets a message from their future self – it’s just a shame that it comes at the end as an afterthought, rather than something that could have been used to propel the plot at the beginning. Instead that role goes to the Holopedia, a holograph-projecting ball that shows the kids a nightmarish vision of a potential future. (Incidentally, you can tell the film was written before the current administration because their joke version of who’s President of the United States in 2040 would be a welcome alternative to the current incumbent.)
Finally, after an underwhelming climax, the film closes with a set-up that echoes the end of Back to the Future and leaves things open-ended for a potential sequel. That seems wildly optimistic, but time will tell.
Time Toys is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.