September 18, 1989 12:00 PM

Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd

Ka-foof! Skrizzle! Boom-boomly! It’s 1,000 years from now, but things haven’t changed much. People are still living grimly under the threat of a doom that’s only vaguely understood. They are still clearly interested in special effects. And they still haven’t figured out how to use Kristofferson or Ladd in movies.

At its best moments of brisk sci-fi, this film buzzes along nicely. Its opening, for instance, is a midair collision between two jumbo-jet passenger planes. That leads to an investigation complicated by the presence of people from the future, who belong to a time-travel police force and seem implicated in the crash. Kristofferson heads the investigation, and Ladd shows up in charge of the time travelers; they are out to prevent one of those knotty paradoxes sci-fi writers love. (As any Back to the Future fan knows, if you could go back in time and change things, you might change yourself out of existence.)

So far, so spiffy. But having launched a Kristofferson-Ladd romance, director Michael (Logan’s Run) Anderson and writer John Varley show many of the opening scenes again, from a different angle. This isn’t a Rashomon approach, showing how different people see the same event; this one merely shows how something looks from two feet to the left of a chair instead of two feet to the right.

Once these pointless puzzlements take over, little happens—Anderson seems intent on repeating himself for the slow learners in the audience. By the time he gets around to explaining (more or less) what’s been going on and begins his leisurely, fiery and world-menacing finale, considerable momentum has been lost.

At one point, Kristofferson tells Ladd, “The first rule is: Never go to bed with anybody crazier than you are.” But if you mixed most of the dialogue with peas, you’d have succotash: “We’re all gonna die. What matters is now. This moment.”

Daniel J. Travanti, as a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who is on to the time travelers, twitters around acting loony and lightens things up. Poor Kris and poor Cheryl have little choice but to play it straight, even when she—glowing with preternatural beauty—has to say to him, “You don’t find me attractive?” This isn’t the Millennium most of us might have been hoping for. (PG-13)

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