I don’t know who Bob Gale is, but I’ll wager that he’s an old Hollywood hand. He’s probably been around Hollywood films for most of his life, which may explain how he was able to get big name stars like Michael J. Fox, Kurt Russell, Chris Cooper, and Ann-Margaret to play cameos in his small movie, “Interstate 60”. Of the four, only Cooper (“Adaptation”) has a major cameo — which in this cases means he lasts for more than one scene.
“Interstate 60” is a fantasy movie in the vein of “The Twilight Zone”, in that it takes an unknown stretch of road (the Interstate 60 of the title, which doesn’t really exist), and turns it into the doorway into its “Twilight Zone”-esque world. The main character is O.W. Grant, played by Gary Oldman as a combination Leprechaun and genie that goes around granting one wish to strangers. (Grant claims that “O.W.” stands for “one wish”, but since the man has a penchant for lying, that’s in some doubt.)
Grant’s latest project is Neal (James Marsden), a 20-something painter who isn’t sure about his path in life. With his father breathing down his neck about going to law school and a girlfriend unable to give advice for fear of sounding too judgmental, Neal wishes for answers. Enter Grant, who sends the young man on a journey to discovery along the titular Interstate 60. Here, Neal runs into Cody (Chris Cooper), a man with terminal cancer who has made it his life’s work (or at least what remains of his life) to confront lies of all variety. Also along Interstate 60 is a town where drugs are legal to anyone over 13; and another town where all the citizens are litigious lawyers. Oh, and there’s a murderer on the loose.
“Interstate 60” is mostly a quirky movie with some nice surprises, plus a couple of twists and turns along the way. It’s obviously heavily inspired by anthologies like the aforementioned “Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits”, where the impossible is a daily occurrence and common sense seems extinct, or at least temporarily unavailable. Neal is also in search of Amy Smart’s Lynn, a young woman who keeps popping into his dreams and who he is obsessed about finding, even though he doesn’t even know her name. Lynn, as it turns out, was another “victim” of Grant’s wish-granting powers. You see, some of Grant’s wishes tend to have unforeseen consequences, which may explain why he smokes a pipe with a monkey’s head on it. (Hint hint.)
Grant is portrayed with mischievous inclinations by Gary Oldman (“Hannibal”), who is clearly having a ball in the odd part. James Marsden (“X-Men”) as the hero Neal is appropriately confused and dumbfounded by the weird situations he finds himself in. Out of his X-men uniform, Marsden doesn’t look all that confident at all, which is what the role calls for.
Things keep getting more confusing for poor Neal the further he goes down the road, and it all builds up to a clever ending, although the “twist” is not unexpected. Amy Smart (“Road Trip”) shows up on billboards in skimpy outfits, but doesn’t actually show up as a character until nearly toward the end. Amy Jo Johnson has the best cameo as a slutty hitchhiker on a quest for the perfect sex, and wants to make Neal sexual partner number 2000-something.
“Interstate 60” has the feel of a TV movie, or perhaps a TV series. It’s episodic in nature, and sometimes there was a feeling that the episodes weren’t ever going to come together to form one coherent film. Luckily writer/director Bob Gale proved me wrong, and the ending did offer a nice payoff. Definitely an unexpected film, “Interstate 60” proved to be quite good. Or at least, a very good diversion from reality.
Bob Gale (director) / Bob Gale (screenplay)
CAST: James Marsden …. Neal Oliver
Gary Oldman …. O.W. Grant
Ann-Margret …. Mrs. James
Chris Cooper …. Bob Cody
Amy Jo Johnson …. Laura