As a Child of the ’80s, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was an emotional attachment during a time of my life when my eyes (and mind) opened to a whole new world of storytelling that developed into a life-long love of movies. After watching 5-25-77, it seems like I’m not the only one to experience this kind of stream-of-consciousness injection into the soul of genre cinema.
Written and directed by Patrick Read Johnson, this coming-of-age film pays homage to small-town life with big-screen aspirations. It follows Pat Johnson (played by John Francis Daley), who, at the tender age of 8, is introduced to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and his life is forever changed. One year later, he’s gifted a video camera, immediately enlisting his friends and family members to star in his backyard home movies.
Fast forward 10 years and he’s still making movies (but never finishing them — the struggle is real!), but as he nears high-school graduation, the fork in his road has become abundantly clear: Will he choose to remain at home with a miserable 9-to-5 job with his first girlfriend or will he cash in all his chips to chase his original crush, Hollywood?
I’ve got to say, from the get-go, 5-25-77 was not only an emotional journey for me, but it was also a fun and nostalgic one, as well. As a passion project, it’s a semi-autobiographical story for Johnson, whose fandom-filmmaking voyage initially felt hopeless, but it eventually becomes a successful endeavor. It’s also one which I undertook, so the story is deeply personal to me, too.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t know anything about this film before recently catching it on Showtime. I’m so glad I did, even though I may have been a little late to the game. John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks) is great as the teenage tormentor of the family who sometimes stands in as the father figure to his siblings.
I’m even more impressed with the actor’s off-camera work, as he is a credited screenwriter to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as a co-writer and co-director to the current release, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves! That’s some pretty great genre credentials, right there. Two other stand-out performers include Emmi Chen (I’m surprised I haven’t previously recognized her in other roles) and Neil Flynn (the stand-out Janitor in Scrubs).
Johnson’s love of movies may have spawned from 2001, and his obsession with the big screen is evident. While nothing’s ever guaranteed in life — especially working in show business! — it’s great to look back at this film, which premiered in 2022, and realize that he’s made it. While this isn’t his only filmmaking contribution (he’s had a variety of roles in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Spaced Invaders and Dragonheart), it is his latest release.
And if you consider yourself a connoisseur of Geek Culture, 5-25-77 is a definite must-see! It deserves to be placed on the Mount Rushmore of underdog movies that will encourage you to become a filmmaker. I’d place is side-by-side with Fanboys, another of my favorites, which took decades to complete as a labor of love… the film’s promo poster even gives me similar vibes (which is a good thing), although it’s clearly influenced by Lucasfilm.
“Just remember one thing: Life doesn’t move at 24 frames per second. It moves a lot faster. And on this picture, you only get one roll of film.”
I absolutely loved watching 5-25-77, which from the start gave me Spielberg (The Fabelmans) and J.J. Abrams (Super 8) vibes, combining my love for geekdom and nostalgia. I will definitely be on the lookout for future projects involving the filmmaker, along with the aforementioned performers.
I can’t recommend this movie enough! I implore you to seek it out On Demand or via your favorite streaming device as soon as possible. It could even be a great scheduled viewing for Star Wars Day!
May the Fourth be with you!!!