VCI Home Video // 1996 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // January 19th, 2012
"Some presents you get, you just don't want."
I'm not sure I ever wanted to remember my toddler years, once I'd gotten up to the mature age of ten or so. Lots of kids nowadays are probably doomed to reliving those years forever, though, thanks to the various and sundry motion picture technologies. I'd think that would be producing a generation of young Luddities, but I gather it hasn't.
The movie Jim's Gift, based on Sylvia Wickman's novel, turned up this week. The DVD cover left me wondering what it could be (interestingly, Doug Bradley of Hellraiser appears without makeup), but it turns out to be a family story of a youngster who becomes interested in a very strange VCR.
Since Dad (Chris Jury, Lovejoy) is redundant, the Totteridges are going to a boot sale to get rid of some redundant stuff and make a few bob in the process. Young Jim Totteridge has another mission -- to hand out leaflets so he can find his beloved lost dog, Bossy. Jim runs into a strange vendor (Robert Llewellyn, Red Dwarf) who sells him a VCR for two pounds -- and warns him not to use the "dodgy" fast-forward button.
When Jim gets home, he tries the VCR, which has an interesting feature: Jim can see events from his past -- from birth to just a few moments ago. He uses this to find some lost money and the like, leaving his parents thinking he's psychic. Soon Jim finds Bossy, but he's not done with the VCR. Naturally, he won't be able to resist pushing that fast-forward, and when he starts trying to foil robberies that haven't happened yet and picking horse races, there's trouble. When trouble hits, the stranger repossesses the VCR, which means Jim and a pal must solve a mystery themselves.
The story isn't exactly heartwarming: there's a father who can't get a job, a rough gang of bullies, and a sister whose taunts at least occasionally get downright crude. There are some lessons learned, though, about relying on human ingenuity over technology, the importance of family, and greed. For me, it provided a chuckle here and there, but I suspect that as a youngster I would have laughed more (I can't tell, though, since I don't have a psychic VCR).
This looks like it was made on the cheap for some British cable network; the process shots which let Llewellyn appear and disappear look like '70s Doctor Who stuff. However, the effects aren't too ambitious, so that's not a huge problem.
Jim's Gift isn't bad, but even if I were trying to raise a British TV fanatic, I wouldn't start here; I'd probably go back further in the catalog in search of serials with even more rickety chromakey effects.
Not guilty, but not necessary.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated