In "The Tomorrow Man" (not to be confused with the '96 film of the same name), violence and mayhem meet a Dickens-esque voyage that starts in the mid-seventies and travels to an alternate future, where the estranged relationship of a father and son reaches a remarkable fruition.
Per this description, one can infer that writer/director Doug Campbell's 2002 adventure is a tad different than most time-travel tales, and because of this, "Tomorrow Man" remains a unique, emotional triumph.
Like “Timecrimes” (see “Time Travel Time” #6: July '14), "Tomorrow Man'"s ramifications are seemingly small, but not for those they impact, with a dangerously wayward son, Bryon, otherwise know as Mac (Morgan Rusler), jaunting back in time with his fellow ruffians (via a stolen, remote-control structured device) to eschew the abuse inflicted upon him by his dad (Corbin Bernsen). Mac plans to kidnap his younger self (Adam Sutton) and raise his timid counterpart in a respectable way, so he'll grow into a fulfilled, law-abiding citizen. On the other side of the coin, his father, Larry, we learn, was once an average, hardworking guy of high principle, but after a stroke of bad luck, fell upon drunken times. The father/son animosity, therefore, creates an explosive mix, but through the woeful consequences, a chance for redemption rises for both.
Much of the the movie's success comes from Bernsen's passionate performance. He convincingly makes Larry a man who, though temperamental, doesn't hesitate to stand up for a friend, as we witness when a bigoted boss bullies his pal, Griff (Stevie Johnson), who it should be noted, fatefully figures into the time-travel scenario decades later. Also at the early level, Larry ardently believes that his diligence and conviction will pay off, that he'll do right by his family and harness his flaws, but as we all know, the best laid plans...
However, when Larry witnesses Bryon's kidnapping (via a flashing, blink-of-an-eye teleportation), he frantically tries to unravel what's happened and get his boy back. Meanwhile, a time agent named Vick (Beth Kennedy), who's tracking Mac, unwittingly carries Larry into the future. This is a complicated turn, since Mac has killed her fellow officer/boyfriend (Zach "Gremlins" Galligan), but Larry's heartfelt zeal proves contagious, and before long, the two form an unsteady allegiance.
Alas, the time-twisted path is a confusing one for Larry. He learns there are restrictions to how far one can travel, and it's implied that aspects of any given timeline can be changed without significantly disrupting the overall pattern. The manifestation of parallel outcomes, therefore, is nonchalantly shrugged, as if (in "Quantum Leap" lore) only the best possible outcomes can ever occur through any given trek, or can they? Larry senses that there's still enough danger in the circumstances to make the mission a precarious one.
Larry eventually finds his wife, Jeanine, who he remembers as a vibrant, young woman (Elizabeth Sandifer), but in older form, she's a distraught recluse (portrayed by "Young and the Restless" legend, Jeanne Cooper, who's also Bernsen's true-life mother). Through Jeanine, Larry begins to understand how his temperament turned Bryon into a criminal: a harsh revelation that makes Larry all the more determined to set things right. (Griff, Larry's old friend, now a high-ranking time cop, also resurfaces to reinforce Jeanine's claims, informing the frenetic father that by abandoning hope and rejecting opportunities, he caused the predicament he now sees before him.)
Eventually older Bryon and Larry cross paths, which inspires the former to take his father back in time (in a "Christmas Carol" type sojourn) to witness one of their bitter exchanges. This moment (wherein Rusler's pensive subtlety plays well off Bernsen's high-strung agitation) becomes a sobering one for Larry. He accepts the error of his ways and vows to become a better man. With this settled, "Tomorrow Man'"s events race toward their climax: some ironic, some jubilant, and in the end, all inspiring.
"Tomorrow Man" is, after all, a story of salvation, of setting wrongs right, of seizing a second chance and making the best of it. Campbell's approach is refreshing, identifiable and wisely relies on realistic sentimentality. In fact, the story would have made a memorable "Twilight Zone": the highest compliment one could hope to pay any fanciful fable.