- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

''Frequency" ties itself into alternately preposterous and mawkish knots while attempting to reconcile a time-travel pretext with baseball trivia, murder melodrama and father-son sentiment.

These elements might have constituted a potent mixture if director Gregory Hoblit and screenwriter Toby Emmerich had kept their wits from disintegrating, but ultimately they throw themselves on the mercy of inattentive and sappy onlookers.

Mr. Hoblit and Mr. Emmerich speculate that post-mortem happy endings may be within reach, provided there is exceptional solar flare activity and you can dust off a serviceable ham radio.

According to the fairy story contrived by Mr. Emmerich, identical cosmic disturbances in October 1969 and 1999 permit the late fireman Frank Sullivan, played by Dennis Quaid, to make supernatural radio contact with his grown son Johnny, a New York City cop played by Jim Caviezel.

The younger Sullivan is the first to express amazement, because he thought his father died on the job on the fateful day of Oct. 12, 1969.

This time frame permits frequent references to the World Series between the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles arguably more of a sore point in this area than it might be to the Sullivans, who reside in Queens.

The movie begins with an opening morbid tease that suggests Mr. Quaid will be a goner on Oct. 10. The filmmakers like their first reprieve so well that they grant an encore, achieved through the miraculous line of communication between Frank in the past and Johnny in the present.

Unfortunately, they aren't content to quit while they're ahead. By giving his father a lifesaving tip, Johnny inadvertently endangers his mother, who ends up on the hit list of a serial killer whose victims have extended into the present.

Indeed, Johnny and his seasoned partner, Satch (Andre Braugher), formerly Frank's best pal, are on the case. Satch in the present gets concerned that Johnny, having interfered with the space-time continuum, can't seem to keep the victim roster straight.

Meanwhile, Satch in the past ends up with Frank as a suspect, Because Johnny in the present has persuaded him to moonlight as an undercover investigator, assigned to foil so-called "Nightingale Murders."

The ground rules of "Frequency" might have justified a reasonable suspension of disbelief if Johnny Sullivan were contributing to a parallel reality in which the Sullivan family would remain whole. But he should only be able to contemplate it from afar.

The movie clearly cheats on this premise by letting his ghostly relationship with Frank affect his own share of reality in ways that grow increasingly grotesque and ridiculous.

One and 1/2 Stars

TITLE: "Frequency"

RATING: PG-13 (Occasional profanity and graphic violence; fleeting inserts of simulated police photos of rape and murder victims)

CREDITS: Directed by Gregory Hoblit

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

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