Relax, I'm From the Future (2023)
Directed by Luke Higginson
Written by Luke Higginson
Starring Rhys Darby, Gabrielle Graham, Julian Richings, Janine Theriault
Release Date September 22nd, 2023
Published September 19th, 2023
There are a number of promising elements in Relax, I'm From the Future. The obvious one is star Rhys Darby, a comedy all star with endless comic timing and instinct. He's been a comedy MVP in numerous smaller roles in projects as diverse as Flight of the Conchords and the two modern Jumanji movies. Darby is just simply funny. Seeing him in the lead of a time travel comedy had me excited to see it. Sadly, he's also the reason that Relax, I'm from the Future is such a disappointment. I expected more of Rhys Darby than what we get in this middling, mean-spirited and mostly forgettable film.
Relax, I'm from the Future stars Rhys Darby as Casper, a time traveler. Casper lives in a future that's actually pretty great. Following a horrible time in which there was strife and war and starvation, the world corrected itself and became a near perfect society. So why go back in time? Well, Casper has a reason but he's cagey about stating exactly what that reason is. Meanwhile, we see several more people coming from the future, each met and immediately murdered by Doris (Janine Theriault) on the belief that they are terrorists who are trying to destroy the perfection of the future.
As for Casper, though he doesn't know it, he narrowly missed running into Doris when he arrived. Instead, he escaped and met Holly (Gabrielle Graham). In exchange for making her rich, Holly will help Casper by buying lottery tickets and placing bets on sporting events. Casper needs money to fund his new life in the past and a partner to help him do it while not altering the future in any important way. Holly wasn't a mistake, in fact, Casper chose her specifically for the complete lack of impact she has on the future.
If that sounds kind of harsh, well, it is. The movie should maybe make that a dark joke but if that was the intent, it doesn't land. Holly is super likable and thus, this mean joke at her expense doesn't land well. And that is a significant failing of Relax, I'm from the Future. The movie plays at times like a dark comedy and carries some darkly comic moments but the actors, especially the rather sunny Darby, don't seem to get how bleak the premise really is. I'm not going to spoil the reason why Casper chose to go back in time, but it is also kind of dark but kind of funny and yet it doesn't come off nearly as funny as it should be.
The biggest sin however, of Relax, I'm from the Future is that is just isn't very funny. Despite funny people enacting what should be a funny story, the laughs are deeply lacking. I kept waiting and waiting for the usually reliable Rhys Darby to come to life and deliver some big laughs but it never happens. There are amusing moments and the film held my attention but with Darby in the lead, I was kind of expecting something more. I was expecting guffaws, big laughs, silliness, and a sense of wondrous absurdity. It never happens in Relax, I'm from the Future.
The movie isn't dour, rather it's just sort of there. A film that feels like it should be riotous or darkly comic in unexpected ways instead unfolds in a rather conventional fashion. Everyone involved appears content to deliver the most basic and straight forward conventional comedy even as they have an outlandish time travel premise. Everyone seems at a loss as to how to make this odd premise funny and no one seems to know what tone they should land on, absurdist humor, dark humor, broad humor, there is a careless quality to Relax, I'm from the Future that leaves the actors scrambling to decide how they should play any given scene.
I don't think Relax, I'm from the Future is a bad movie, just one that needed a little more care and attention to detail. There is a strong idea at the heart of the film but writer-director Luke Higginson can't seem to land on just where he wants to take this material. Similarly, star Rhys Darby doesn't quite no which way to take the character of Casper. He's a bit of an anti-hero, but he's also a bit of naive man-child. He's selfish and self involved but then in another scene he will be aggressively kind and boyish. It's a rather schizophrenic approach to character and never congeals into one recognizable character. That is nearly enough to doom the film except that the premise is still quite good as is co-star Gabrielle Graham, meaning that the movie isn't a complete failure but merely a disappointment.
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