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Wireless Connection

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 28, 2000


    'Frequency' In "Frequency," Jim Caviezel plays John Sullivan, a cop able to speak to his dead father (Dennis Quaid) through a ham radio. (New Line)
A flying DeLorean, a most excellent telephone booth and the ever-popular time warp: In the movies, there sure are lots of ways to turn back the clock, to settle old scores, to reconnect with the folks you left behind. But "Frequency's" compelling protagonists are the first to bridge the time gap via ham radio.

Of course, as fans of "Star Trek," "Back to the Future" and even "The Simpsons" well know, you can kill a mosquito or tread on a weed and thereby forever alter the nature of things. Then when you finally get back to the future, something's always askew. And you've got to go back and make it right.

That's precisely what happens in this entertaining manly potpourri of a thriller when policeman John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) inadvertently contacts his late father, Frank (Dennis Quaid), a daring fireman who died on the job in 1969.

It's exactly one day before the 30th anniversary of Frank's death when John discovers his father's old ham radio in a chest. He fiddles with the controls and through a riot of static he is shocked to discover that his still-young father is on the other end of the line. The two are truly on the same wavelength, and suddenly he has a chance to undo the tragedy of his father's early death.

The phenomenon all has something to do with solar winds, sunspots and a spectacular aurora borealis shimmering above Queens. Not that the pseudo-science behind the phenomenon makes any sense or matters much, for in its heart, Toby Emmerich's script is about the bond between father and son.

And the Miracle Mets. Baseball fulfills a major role in the mechanics of the film. John proves his identity to his dad by providing an "advance" play-by-play of the 1969 World Series. When it turns out John is right, Frank takes his warning seriously and fights fire with a new methodology. Dad knew how to get along with his comrades and was a favorite on the force, but since it was the '60s, before sensitive guys, John never heard his dad say "I love you," never got to play catch with the old man, never felt his steadying presence as he learned to ride his bike. Now that he's prevented Frank's death, he'll at least have those memories. Never mind the new catastrophes that arise.

And never mind the wrong turn in the narrative--enter a serial killer--which leads to increasing complications without really adding more meaning, depth or drama to the movie. It's more like filler.

Quaid and Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line") are given plenty of time to develop their characters, and though they share only a moment of screen time, the actors create a warm, idealized relationship through their voices and charms alone.

Andre Braugher, in the role of John's partner and mentor, has one of the most demanding roles: As father and son change the past and change it again, his character mutates accordingly. Braugher has no trouble working this precinct. Elizabeth Mitchell, as Frank's wife, doesn't have much to do, but she's convincing at it. And Noah Emmerich recalls his ebullient turn as Jim Carrey's best buddy in "The Truman Show" in the role of John's brother, Gordo.

In the end, it comes back to dear old Dad. Frank is the kind of father we've all dreamed of--courageous, always there for you, funny, caring, and he sings you lullabies at night. With that kind of dad, who needs a mother? Director Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear") does not shrink from emotionalism in this, his third film, though he peppers the cathartic fantasy with fireballs, shotguns, leather jackets and a dousing of beer and testosterone. It's like a chick flick for men--and the women who love them, sniff-sniff.

FREQUENCY (PG-13, 118 minutes) – Contains a couple of bad words, grisly crime-scene photos, gunfire and an exploding fireball.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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