Aaron Widmar
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Best Road Trip Movies: Interstate 60 Review

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Interstate 60 review BMW convertible James Marsden 8 ball

Neal (James Marsden) consults relies on his 8-Ball to make decisions for him. Photo: Screen Media Films

Think America doesn’t have a mythological figure in its folklore who grants wishes? Then you haven’t met O.W. Grant, the immortal offspring of a leprechaun and Cheyenne Indian. If you’re lucky enough to cross paths with him, your wildest dreams may come true… but be nothing like what you expected.

That’s the premise to this whimsical, metaphysical comedy written and directed by Bob Gale, co-creator of the Back to the Future franchise. The self-funded film hasn’t garnered much attention since it was released in 2002, which is unfortunate considering the star-studded cast, intelligent script, and entertaining take on the road trip formula.

More: Read our other Road Trip movie reviews!

The Plot

Neal Oliver (James Marsden), an aspiring but unsuccessful artist, wants to know the answer to his life. On his 22nd birthday, like many at his age, he stands at the gateway to adulthood and yearns to know what purpose his life holds. He’s pressured by an overbearing father (Jim Bourgeois), an attorney-at-law who’s determined to send Neal to his Alma Mater and continue his legacy, and a girlfriend who’s more interested in psychoanalyzing Neal than supporting him.

However, after encountering the devious O.W. Grant (Gary Oldman) and the all-knowing Ray (Christopher Lloyd), Neal is sent on a trip across the fabled, supposedly-nonexistent Interstate 60 to deliver a mysterious package. Along the way, he encounters an assortment of individuals (including Ann-Margret, Kurt Russell, Chris Cooper) in fantastical situations that lead Neal down a path of spiritual and moral edification.

The Vehicle

Interstate 60 Review BMW Red convertible Family

While the BMW convertible Neal receives for his birthday is a gem, it’s really for his dad. Photo: Screen Media Films

The car Neal drives on his trek along Interstate 60 plays a critical role in his journey of self-discovery.

Our protagonist receives a brand new 1998 BMW 328i Cabrio convertible from his father, who boasts about its features: “Fire engine red. Fuel injected. 160 horses. Car phone.” However, such a car does not appeal to Neal; red is his Dad’s favorite color. Even his father’s signature phrase, “TAK 2 BNK,” is engraved on the license plate. The BMW wholly represents the legacy that’s thrust upon Neal by his father, the “free ride” he is expected to take in exchange for compromising on his own dreams.

The father/son relationship, and the legacy looming over him, is central to Neal’s dilemma and search for purpose. Thus, without revealing any spoilers, the importance of the car’s symbolism necessitates an ending that involves Neal bucking his father’s expectations and asserting his own vision for his life.

The BMW is also a means for Neal to travel across Interstate 60 and interact with a multitude of characters by picking up hitchhikers and delivering them to destinations along the way.

Our Interstate 60 Review

Interstate 60 is ultimately about two things: the ethical fiber of America’s John Everyman, and the moral humanity of each viewer.

If Frank Capra were making films in the twenty-first century, they’d arguably resemble Interstate 60. There isn’t a scene that passes without a character sharing a profoundly striking thought about human nature or an interaction possessing rich metaphoric significance. O.W. Grant alters reality, going back in time, to place the protagonist on a road to learn life lessons, much like Clarence does in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Interstate 60 review Gary Oldman

O.W. Grant (Oldman) enjoys messing with your life by granting your wishes in unexpected ways. Photo: Screen Media Films

What other movie with mainstream actors teaches lessons about the drawbacks to promiscuity, addictions, deceit, and legalism using purely parabolic means? Instead of employing realistic experiences, Interstate 60 relies on fantastical allegories, much like Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, to offer an anthropological study of humanity.

Interstate 60 is rife with religious and spiritual philosophy, mythology, doppelgangers, destiny, altered realities, and symbolism which deeply exemplify the themes in subsequent viewings. In many ways, the film is likened to an extended episode of The Twilight Zone.

Just when the heavy-handed themes become a bit too wholesome, the film includes some soft R-rated material to remind viewers that such lessons are important for adults just as much as for kids. What film for adults genuinely cover these subjects for the average twenty-something viewer?

It walks a fine line between moral cheese and adult content. The preachy moral lessons which will frustrate the skeptical, pessimistic viewers but the adult content will likely deter most conservative viewers. However, if your tastes fall somewhere in the middle, like us, this movie has the potential to become a favorite.

More: Read our other Road Trip movie reviews!

  • Aaron WidmarSenior Editor

    Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing... See more articles by Aaron.