One subgenre I love is the time travel subgenre. Not only is it an interesting subject to base a film around, but it can be executed in various genres, whether it’s sci-fi, comedy or even horror. And, even then, that aspect can be unique each time because of the way time travel can be explained and adjusted for that film’s plot. For example, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Back To The Future’ focus on time travel, but are completely different films not just in genre but execution too. And ‘Mandao Returns’ is yet another unique approach to the subgenre.
Jay Mandao is back, this time to try and stop the murder of a B-Movie star through time travel. However, the more he messes with time, the worse his world becomes. Christmas is not going to be so joyful for him this year!
This film essentially, in part, answers the question ‘what if Jay and Silent Bob were able to time travel at will?’ While this is a sequel, and some background knowledge might be required for the opening scene, ‘Mandao Returns’ is an enjoyable and surreal ride that I want more of.
The three leads, Cousin Andy (Sean Liang), Jackson (Sean McBride) and Jay Mandao (Writer Scott Dunn) return in this sequel, and their friendship and dialogue were the best aspects of the film. They carry the film throughout its 65-minute runtime, so making them likable was important and, gladly, they are likable and charming. The dialogue is very well written and does a great job at showing the audience that these three characters have a history and an eventful friendship. While the personal highlight would have to be Cousin Andy, who’s money making scheme at fortune telling goes hilariously wrong in the first fifteen minutes, the other leads all shine in their own way and stand out amongst each other. Jackson is the naïve and innocent one, while Jay is more confident and can astral project (travel into the spirit world), a power that was introduced in the previous film.
From the second the film starts, it’s clear that this is a low budget film, however the money is put to good use here, especially when it comes to its cinematography and effects. The execution of the astral projecting is another aspect that is very enjoyable. Black and white imagery, as well as dutch tilts, are used to differentiate between the worlds, creating surreal sequences. Even the ‘Stargate’-esque effects that are used as transitions look great. While these won’t be effects replicating that of a Marvel movie, the effects look fantastic and reflect the tone and narrative that the film is going for.
The acting is a little awkward at times, however this can’t be written as a criticism. ‘Mandao Returns’ feels like it’s trying to reach fans of ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ and the films of Kevin Smith. So, while this style of acting wouldn’t have worked in other comedies, it fits very comfortably here and even embraces the awkwardness. It’s aware of what style and tone it is, and dives headfirst into that, which is something that should be respected; it’s not trying to be something it isn’t.
If there were any critique to be made, it’s that I wish ‘Mandao Returns’ had been longer, just so I could stay in the world for a much longer amount of time. This type of critique is personally rare; usually I find a lot of films will overstay their welcome, but ‘Mandao Returns’ does the opposite. This is mostly due to the lead characters, and their charming and natural dialogue; their long-term friendship is convincing from the moment the film starts.
‘Mandao Returns’ is a silly, but charming, film about time travel, spirits and three friends trying to fix the timeline. It’s happy to embrace the films of Kevin Smith and does so perfectly through its humour and dialogue. Furthermore, the cinematography and effects are a nice touch that help emphasis the surrealness of the plot. Plus, the strongest aspect of the film are the three leads who effortlessly carry the film’s runtime on their shoulders. Positively ‘Mandao Returns’ is too short of a film; I wanted to spend more time with these characters and the antics they get up to. So, hopefully a third entry in this franchise could happen? Only time will tell.
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