Picks and Pans Review: Frequency

updated 05/01/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/01/2000 01:00AM

Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Andre Braugher, Elizabeth Mitchell

Father's Day comes early this year for those wise enough to seek out Frequency, a rewardingly tricky supernatural drama in which an adult son is able to yak to his long-dead father via an old ham radio.

The film begins in 1969 with Quaid as a New York City firefighter who adores his job, his wife (Mitchell) and their 6-year-old son. After he almost loses his life during a particularly daring rescue, his wife lovingly chides, "There's nothing wrong with old age, Frank, as long as you get there." Days later, he dies in a warehouse fire. Or does he?

Frequency cleverly keeps reconfiguring its plot, repeatedly changing the course of its characters' lives. This happens after Quaid's now grown son (Caviezel), a cop who still lives in the house in which he grew up, absentmindedly turns on Dad's old ham radio in 1999 and finds himself talking to his still-alive father in the days just before the deadly fire. He warns Quaid to turn left rather than right inside the warehouse, thus enabling Quaid to save himself and dramatically altering both men's destinies. Soon the two, still communicating on the radio, are collaborating on thwarting a serial killer whose string of murders back in 1969 remains in Caviezel's unsolved case file in 1999.

It all gets excessively complicated and requires a big suspension of disbelief, but Frequency, directed with verve by Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear), boasts an ingenious script and plenty of heart, and Quaid and Caviezel come through with solid, affecting performances. The latest entrant in the Field of Dreams school of father-son bonding films, Frequency is likely to trigger surreptitious sniffles among grown men in darkened theaters. It's okay, guys; real men are allowed to tear up when remembering Pop. And if he is still alive, they are even allowed to phone home just to say they love him, which is what plenty of viewers are apt to do after watching this movie. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Liked father, liked son

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