Time travel movies are, honestly, very hit and miss. Granted, there are exceptions (i.e., Terminator or Back to the Future), but time travel seems to get a bad rap, and for good reasons, because it could be considered Hollywood’s way of not coming up with something more original. And time travel, quite frankly, could come off as a lazy story tactic. Time travel can work, just as long as it doesn’t get too convoluted.
The Wave is an attempt at being this extremely psychedelic drug trip while surprisingly being in the mindset of a comedy. At the end of it all, The Wave is an immensely crowd pleasing and highly entertaining experience that also proves to be a great demonstration of why Justin Long is a capable and severely underrated actor.
Frank (Long), an opportunistic insurance lawyer, thinks he’s in for the time of his life when he goes out on the town to celebrate an upcoming promotion with his co-worker, Jeff (Donald Faison). Their night takes a turn for the bizarre when Frank is dosed with a hallucinogen that completely alters his perception of the world, taking him on a psychedelic quest through board meetings, nightclubs, shootouts, and alternate dimensions. As Frank ping-pongs between reality and fantasy, he finds himself on a mission to find a missing girl, himself, and his wallet.
You’ve probably seen Justin Long somewhere before. Long has always been a reliable actor in Hollywood. He’s got a familiar face, but his name isn’t a Tom Cruise or Meryl Streep. The Wave may not get the wide appeal it deserves, but if there’s one thing that can’t be discounted, it is the brilliant performance that Justin Longs gives in this movie. The shaken and anxious aspects of his character made his journey more thrilling and it made his performance stand out the most among the supporting players. Part of Long’s charm is that his comedy is straightforward, which makes him fit perfectly in this perplexing and menacing world. Frank starts off as a jerk, but he later becomes a jerk that you can start to empathize with.
Justin Long also shares a solid dynamic with Donald Faison, who plays his best friend and co-worker, Jeff. The friendship that the two of them share in this world is a classic case of two friends outgrowing their old issues, taking countless amounts of shots, and snorting a bunch of cocaine.
Written by Carl W. Lucas, the script in The Wave presents a lot of elements that are being played around with, whether dealing with certain strategies in time travel, featuring a quirky and comedic undertone, or creating visual images for psychedelic purposes. Lucas’s script is not as deep or as intelligent as it may seem at first, but one thing that Lucas did very well was giving the audience a great underlying message about the root of all humanity, being accepted, which bounces off all the disorder and random accounts of violence. The Wave might not be that anxious to really impress audiences, and one might think it’s more of a style-over-substance type of movie while extrapolating on some heavy topics, but it doesn’t lose focus of being an obscure and silly comedy.
The Wave’s ending is something that may feel deceptive, but the approach to the character of Frank and the touch of humanity in this movie really ties it all together with a unique thread. It’s one of the reasons The Wave is so pleasing.
The Wave proves to be a daring, sharp, and satisfying adventure which features a great performance from Justin Long, well written comedy, and some breathtaking psychedelic sequences. This is a movie that may not jive with a lot of people, and it’s really understandable if you really think about it. The story is told in an unconventional way, but it’s really just super trippy, which may make audiences uncomfortable or sick-feeling. The Wave is no masterpiece by any means, and it’s hard for any movie to get selected as a perfect movie, but the pacing of the movie felt appropriate for Frank’s journey, it never got too disjointed with its time travel, and it ended up being well worth the 90-minute run time.
In theaters and on VOD January 17th, 2019.
Final Grade: 4 out of 5.