Too bad the film wasn't a mega-hit or else this might not seem quite like the vanity that it does now.
Still, as I said, this is a lot of fun and I loved it as a kid! The fact that it wasn't a mega-hit, however, is not among the bigger questions in this film. After all we're talking about a motorcycle racer who gets thrust back 105 years from 1982 to 1877 and rides his high-tech, souped up K.I.T.T. of a motorcycle through the Wild, Wild West while gun-fighting outlaws try to shoot him and steal his ride. Dick Move!
The script (by Nesmith with director William Dear) establishes our "hero" Lyle Swann (Ward) as something of a motocross legend, complete with fans and a big pit crew who treats him like he's Paul Bunyan on a Bike! This seems a little odd to me, seeing as how "Lyle Swann" doesn't sound much like the name of a guy that kids would have posters of on their bedroom walls... he sounds more like a nerd that got picked on a lot in high-school and then later invented some software program that made him a mint later on. Be that as it most certainly isn't (in this film, at least), Swann maybe should have thought about programming because he's not much of a motorcycle racer. This shows in the fact that in spite of all his high-tech equipment (and pre-GPS paper map from Exxon) he gets lost on the race and by strange-ass happenstance he ends up rolling right in to a science experiment in Time Travel!
Yes, right next to a big race, some actual science nerds are testing "The Timerider Project" and attempting to send something back in time. Now what, pray tell, would they send back through time in a script written by Mike Nesmith? How about... A MONKEY?
How'd he think of that, man?
Unfortunately, the Lylenator also rolls (Rick Jones-like) into the experiment and the entire Time Machine array ZAPS back in time... and Lyle the oblivious just keeps on riding when it zaps back to 1982 without even quipping "Well THAT's Peculiar!"
Seriously, in a movie that has names like "Peter Coyote" and "Lyle Swann", not to mention "William Dear", one might expect it to be animated, with lots of funny animals bouncing around!
Anyway, the good news for Lyle is that with Outlaws like these around, sexy Claire Cygne (Belinda Bauer) has sex with him three seconds after she's alone with him!
Man, I WANT A TIME MACHINE!
Who could blame her, though? Marshall Bill Potter (L.Q. Jones) is a bit of an old guy and his foolhardy Deputy Daniels (Chris Mulkey) is so devoted to him it makes you wonder! Hell, the only guy in town who is both reasonably cool and reasonably good looking is the Priest (as played by Ed Lauter)! No wonder Lyle Swann was in such demand... in spite of the fact that his name IS Lyle Swann!
Don't get too excited, though... this is a PG movie!
In many ways, what follows is rather refreshing. The bad guys want to steal his bike but have NO IDEA what to do with it or how to make the damned thing work. This is in sharp contrast to the usual antagonist learning quickly and becoming a super-villain by the second act with futuristic technology (though the idea of a band of desperados with dirt bikes is at least a little cool). Further, while most Time Travel stories feature the hero figuring things out pretty quickly and trying like hell to get back to their own time (in spite of the fact that time travel itself is worth at least a pause and a head-scratch), Lyle Swann remains pretty damned clueless the entire time, thinking he's just plain lost and has come across a bunch of reenactors in some Wild West show or something.
Unfortunately, the plot runs out of gas long before Lyle's bike does and the silliness gets just a bit goofier as time goes on. The pacing is questionable at times and the fish-out-of-water motif drags on through the film's one big trick of Sci-Fi meets Western. After a while when Lyle still doesn't get it after the locals are calling him El Diablo, old people are having heart attacks and dying when he rides up to them for directions, his love interest talks about her dad fighting in the Civil War, people are living like its 1877 and nobody has ever seen, nor can believe the technology he's got with him... well the guy just seems a bit dense not to at least entertain the possibility that he hasn't just taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque, man! Look, I get that Time Travel is hard to believe, but damn! Flux Capacitor or not, open your peepers, true believer. Either you're unstuck in time or you've just ridden into Shyamalan's The Village!
Further, the script is laded with time paradoxes that seem designed to "make you think" long after the credits roll, and they do, some, but they come off more as plot contrivances or gratuities for Sci-Fi fans. Then again, if you think too hard about some of these paradoxes you probably won't say "OH WOW!"... you'll probably shudder in discomfort!
That said, while Timerider isn't the most brilliant time travel flick, nor is it the most exciting Western, it could be worse and manages to remain fun and interesting throughout its 94 minute runtime in spite of its many flaws! Two and a half Stars out of Five for Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann! I was just in the mood for this kind of title, so it was this or The Journey of Natty Gann! Also a fine film, but I figured, hey, it's Sci-Fall again, let's err on the side of the Swann-son! So unless I'm unstuck in time myself (again... in which case... I wonder if I'm dead), I'll see you in the next reel, Buckaroo!
And face the Western Frontier of Time...
And... silly movie reviews...
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