Film Review: “5-25-77”

  • 5-25-77
  • Starring:  John Francis Daley, Austin Pendleton and Colleen Camp
  • Directed by:  Patrick Read Johnson
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 12 mins
  • Filmio

A young man, enthralled by the rmagic of the movies, begins to make his own films with his family and friends.  If this sounds like Steven Spielberg’s film, “The Fablemans,” you would be right.  However, “5-25-77” has been around, in various forms, since 2007.

Film fans will recognize May 25, 1977 as the day “Star Wars” opened in the United States.  Like “Jaws” before it, the effect the film had on Hollywood would change it forever.  Thanks to the success of “Star Wars,” films like “Star Trek the Motion Picture” and “The Black Hole” were greenlighted by studios, bringing science fiction, once a stalple of 1950s Hollywood, back to the cinema.


Pat Johnson (Daley) takes in a showing of “2001: A Spsce Odysey” and is mesmerized by what he has seen.  He begins to make home movies in the neighborhood and finally saves the money to travel to Hollywood with one mission: to meet Douglas Trumball, the man behind the special effects of “2001.”  His trip doesn’t go exactly as planned, but what does happen changes Pat’s life forever.

The film follows Pat on his journey west – he lives in Illinolis – where, while waiting to meet Trumball he runs ito a young Steven Spielberg, who is currently finishing up the special effects on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” a film Trumball also did the special effects for.  He also stumbles into a room containing models for another upcoming film called “Star Wars.”  Impressed by the young man’s interest, one of the crew invite him to a screening room where he is given a peek at a very rough cut of “Star Wars.”  Overwhelmed by what he’s seen, Pat returns home where he does his best to make his friends and family as “Star Wars” crazy as he is.


The first act of the film is well done.  Daley captures the same enthusiasm that my 16-year old pals and I had in wating for the film to open.  It’s clear to the viewer that “Star Wars” really had an effect on Pat’s life, much the same way that “Jaws” had on mine.  So excited is Pat that he invites his entire class to be his guest at the theatre on opening day.

It’s the second act of the film where things begin to fumble.  Even though the film runs a healthy 132 minutes (11 minutes longer then “Star Wars”), Mr. Johnson has tried to cram too much into the final 45-minutes of the film.  It’s almost as if, after 15 years of working on the film, Mr. Johnson decided to use everything he had.  As someone who focuses on the minute trivia of films, I was disappointed to find a Cubs game on television late at night.  I lived in the Chicago area until 1974 and I don’t recall Cub games being re-broadcast.  Also, if my ears are working correctly, there is a batter in the game that has 98 RBIs – in mid-May.  I have other issues with the film but to list them would require a SPOILER ALERT notice.


I first became aware of this film when Mr. Johnon was interviewed for the “Jaws” documentary “The Shark is Still Working,” a film in which I also appear.  I was intrigued by the 5-25-77 poster behind Mr. Johnson and have eagerly been waiting for this film since then.  While I did have some quibbles with the film, it is definitely one that should be seen, not only for movie lovers who will find a kindred soul in young Pat Johnson but as a validation of Patrick Read Johnson’s perseverance.


I give “5-25-77” 3.5 stars out of 5.  

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