12:01 (1993)

1201

“Mom, I’ll call you back. The day’s repeating.”

The Scoop: 1993 NR, directed by Jack Sholder and starring Jonathan Silverman, Helen Slater and Jeremy Piven

Tagline: Every day at a minute past midnight the sci-fi adventure begins… again.

Summary: Man gets stuck in an infinite time loop, resolves to solve the issue the only way a MAN can — duct tape!

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Justin’s rating: Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future…

Justin’s review: Barry Thomas isn’t having a great day.  His boss demotes him, his best friend pulls a string of practical jokes on him, and he falls in love with a girl who’s gunned down after work.  But that’s not the worst part – the worst part is that Barry’s stuck in an endless time loop (or “time bounce” as the movie puts it), doomed to repeat the same day over and over again.  Nothing changes, except that Barry, for reasons unknown to him, can remember it all.

Sound a bit familiar?  A bit… Groundhog Dayish?  Or pretty much from every science fiction show ever made?  Time loops are a standard scifi plot that writers can’t resist pulling out of the dusty box of tropes, mostly because it’s usually interesting to watch, and it’s very easy on the budget.

12:01, a TV movie on the Fox network, might not be the first nor last to use that sort of plot, but it had the incredibly unfortunate luck of releasing the same year as the immensely popular Groundhog Day, which had the cool time loop theme AND a groundhog AND Bill Murray on its side.  12:01 had Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s) and a Martin Landau.  Which is sort of like a groundhog, just older.

Overshadowed though it was, 12:01’s made a comeback in the cult circuit, mostly due to the fact that it’s pretty funny and clever in its own right.  While Groundhog Day posed a zen-like situation of repeating a day endlessly for no real reason, 12:01 is essentially a mystery movie with several unknown factors that are gradually uncovered over the course of the repeating 24 hours.  Barry may have begun the first day as a feckless loser, but his transformation to confident, determined hero is more gratifying to watch than Bill Murray take piano lessons.

While it could’ve been played pretty straight, the charm of this film lies with Silverman and Jeremy Piven, who both add a lot of memorable zingers (”Don’t think that I can’t do it — I’m in personnel!”) and hilarious little moments.  What’s more is that both my wife and I thought we had the whole mystery figured out early on, only to have our expectations dashed as the film threw a few clever twists in here and there.  It’s also a zippy 94 minutes, so no “500 days later…” delays here.  Straight on to the good stuff!

The only thing that fell short was the romance, which should’ve been the central hook but was flat from start to finish.  It went from the girl absolutely hating on Barry at the beginning to him being able to woo her with a series of stalker-like statements that “only she knows” by the final days, and his continued professions of love and adoration came across as a silly schoolboy crush more than Twue Wuv.

It’s certainly not better than Groundhog Day, and may be a tired scifi staple, but 12:01 is sharply crafted, and deserves your hot, sweaty hugs and completely inappropriate nuzzles.

Groovy Quotes

Barry Thomas: Mom, I’ll call you back. The day’s repeating.

Lisa Fredericks: [amused] Where are you usually locked up?
Barry Thomas: Oh, I’m just an experiment gone horribly awry in the Personnel Department.
Lisa Fredericks: I see. I’m Lisa Fredericks.
Barry Thomas: I’m Barry Thomas.
Lisa Fredericks: [not sure how to take him] What is it that you do?
Barry Thomas: Oh, nothing. I just sort of boost morale in between threats of being fired.
Lisa Fredericks: Ah. Well, you seem to have a mind. That doesn’t usually fit in this system. Nice to meet you.

Barry Thomas: You know what’s funny? If today was really today, I woulda quit by now.

Lisa Fredericks: Are you saying that you, that we, I mean – Did you get lucky? Oh my God. You got lucky!
Barry Thomas: You got lucky, too!

Barry Thomas: The Time Bounce. We’re in it. The Earth has stopped as we know it. Children don’t grow up. People don’t stay dead. We’ll never have another holiday, and you’ll never see another flower bloom.

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