Writer-director Jack Piandaryan has a lot on his mind; it's too bad he couldn't have put it all into a more coherent and convincing package than the half-baked thriller "The Parallel."
What exactly is this time-tripping cautionary tale trying to say? Piandaryan floats past every stock lesson from "Youth is wasted on the young" to "You reap what you sow," but mostly it's a case of "Don't take two hits of X then go off and get busy with your girlfriend's hot best friend."
That drug-induced misstep gets Danny Fitzgerald (Taylor Hart), a cocky high school senior en route to Harvard, into a mess of trouble. So much so, it seems, that the golden boy wakes up more than 20 years later an alcoholic loser without a clue as to how he got there, much less how to get back to the night it all went wrong. Think: "Peggy Sue Got Married," but in reverse, with an unsympathetic male protagonist, subpar acting and lots of first-draft dialogue. The film's theory, that maybe we're all living two parallel lives -- if we even exist at all -- is intriguing, but it's rarely taken beyond the notion that Danny's just dreaming it. The result is, to be charitable, underwhelming, narratively and visually.
When Danny jumps into the future, he's supposedly aged two decades (despite those fake crow's feet, he looks about two months older), but the world around him still looks virtually the same. Is that a "parallel lives" thing or simply a budgetary choice? A more credible makeup job is done to advance the years of Danny's lost high school love Lynn (Margaret Scarborough) and his now-hostile wife Margie (Darla Gordon) -- Lynn's slutty best friend from that fateful night -- but the women here don't fare any better than Danny with regard to depth or logic. As for the grim but nicely coiffed Gypsy (Jeff Swarthout) who predicts Danny's demise, he's good for some much-needed, but unintentional, levity.
Who knows, maybe there's a stronger version of this film playing in a parallel auditorium somewhere.
"The Parallel." MPAA rating: R for sexuality, language, some drug use and brief violence. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811.