Scattershot 'Tomorrow War' has Chris Pratt battling monsters of the futur

Sitcom-actor-turned-action-movie-star Chris Pratt, second from left, stars in Amazon's latest blockbuster movie, "The Tomorrow War."

Some say that women marry versions of their fathers, and I guess you could argue "The Tomorrow War" is evidence of that.

Chris Pratt, who is married to Katherine Schwarzenegger, is the hero of the action/science fiction/combat/comedy/drama, which feels exactly like a movie his father-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would have starred in before he pivoted to politics.

In 2023, a restless science teacher (Pratt) is drafted and forced to time-travel 28 years into the future to battle "white spikes," vicious monsters that have overrun the planet to such an extent that they're about to wipe out humanity.

Originally intended for theaters, "Tomorrow" pivoted to Amazon and that was probably a good move. Director Chris McKay cast actors who are best known for providing comic relief (Pratt, Sam Richardson from "Veep," Mary Lynn Rajskub from "24"). It's a smart way to lighten a grim tale but it also results in a shaky tone McKay can't smooth out, especially when "Tomorrow" tries to be funny, exciting and poignant all at the same time.

Some of the wonkier special effects will look better on smaller screens, and the white spikes may be scarier there, too. Sort of like a dragon mixed with a couple of snakes and slathered in Kabuki makeup, the spikes are gross but also very familiar (we may need an "America's Next Top Creature Designer" reality series because horror movie monsters have become very same-y).

With a young person from 2051 pleading with 2023 citizens about how humans from the present are robbing tomorrow's people of their futures, the movie clearly intends its monsters as a metaphor for climate crisis. It works fairly well, especially since Pratt's bosses inform him that all the people being sent to the future to battle monsters would have been dead then, which means they won't accidentally run into their future selves and create holes in the space/time continuum or whatever it is that happens when you violate the "laws" of time travel.

McKay deserves credit for including just enough of those time-hopping details to fill us in without getting bogged down in them the way many futuristic movies do. And if his cast sometimes seems overqualified — gifted Betty Gilpin ("Glow") should be playing heroes, not the "It'll be OK, honey" role she has here as Pratt's wife — they're all genial and compelling, whether they're making wisecracks or making monsters disappear.

Despite the movie's flaws, that balance really sticks out in "Tomorrow" because it's quite similar to last year's humorless "The Midnight Sky," but it's more fun to watch.


2 stars (out of 4)

Rating: PG-13 (for nonstop violence)

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Playing: Now available on Amazon Prime Video