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Overall Rating
3.32

Awesome: 8%
Worth A Look48%
Average: 16%
Pretty Bad: 24%
Total Crap: 4%

2 reviews, 13 user ratings


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Time Traveler's Wife, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Quantum Creep"
2 stars

It pretty much goes without saying that any story that deals with the whole notion of time travel, no matter how briefly is borderline ridiculous right from the get-go. Therefore, there are generally two distinct ways of dealing with it in a film that a filmmaker can take without completely losing the audience before even getting a chance to win them over. The first involves treading very lightly on the actual gimmick and coming up with a story straightforward and compelling enough to distract audiences from the sheer preposterousness--films like “12 Monkeys” or the original theatrical version of “Donnie Darko” immediately leap to mind. The second involves embracing the implausibility of the gimmick by telling a story that knows that it is completely nuts and has fun with it--the even-more-underrated “Back to the Future Part II” is a perfect example of this particular approach. The trouble with “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is that it is a textbook example of the second type that is under the mistake delusion that it is actually the first type. The result is a strange fiasco of a film that offers viewers a story that is so transcendently goofy that it is impossible to take seriously for a second but which, for the most part, is handled in such an earnest and straight-forward manner that it wind up being too dull to work as camp.

Eric Bana stars as Henry, a man who, through reasons that are never made clear, has the ability to spontaneously transport himself through time. He first discovers this ability as a child when he manages to teleport himself out of the car crash that killed his beloved mother to a period of time a couple of weeks earlier. When he zaps back to the time of the crash, the boy is greeted by his older incarnation who informs of his mysterious power without explaining how the same person, regardless of age difference, can be in the same place at the same time. (While the delicate fabric of the time-space continuum is often rent in films of this type, the rending usually doesn’t start less than two minutes in.) When we next see Henry, he is working in a library where he meets Clare (Rachel McAdams), a sweet-but-unfamiliar young thing who claims to have known him since she was a young girl and an older version of him traveled back to visit with her once he realized that she was destined to become the love of his life. Anyway, they eventually get married--though not without complications--and try to make a life for themselves despite Henry’s condition, which causes him to disappear and reappear more or less at random. Strangely, Clare seems more or less accommodating to all of this but a big complication eventually rises when Henry meets another time traveler, no fair to say who, who informs him of one key piece of information about his future that he desperately tries to hide from her even though he knows full well that there is no way for him to avoid it.

If you think that the above plot description makes absolutely no sense, then you should try watching the goddamned thing and making sense of it for yourself. One of the key problems is that there is absolutely no story to speak of here. Oh sure, there is a premise and there are plenty of incidents on display but there is zero narrative in screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin’s adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s 2004 best-seller that I could discern--the overall effect is akin to channel-hopping between “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Somewhere in Time” late one night while under the effects of an extra helping of Nyquil. And since there is literally no story to hold on to, there is not much of anything left for viewers to do except to focus attention on the time travel gimmick and realize that it doesn’t make a lick of sense from that perspective either. Outside of being described as suffering from “chrono-impairment,” we never get any real explanation about Henry’s condition or any of the details that might have helped sell it at least in the short term. (The only rule that the film sticks to throughout is the one about how one cannot travel through time with clothes on and that only seems to have been included for the ladies in the audience.) Instead, we get one jumbled scene after another in which we are theoretically supposed to be touched by this grand romance during which we are either too busy trying to figure out where and when the hell we are to notice or too appalled by the shamelessness of the proceedings to care. Face it, unless you are Bill Wyman, the sight of a guy in his 40’s trying to charm a pre-teen girl who he knows will one day be his wife isn’t so much desperately romantic as it is incredibly creepy.) The only scenes that do work are the rare bits when the film seems a little more willing to embrace its inherent silliness--there is a great moment in which McAdams discovers that Bana has gotten a vasectomy to prevent another in a series of miscarriages (the fetus is apparently trying to time-travel out of the womb) and figures out a loophole to get pregnant again and the finale is so inadvertently hilarious that I suspect everyone in the cast and crew was desperately trying to keep from bursting out into laughter while it was being shot.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” is absolute gibberish from beginning to end--it is less offensive to the sense than such recent summer tearjerkers as “The Notebook” and “My Sister’s Keeper,” but gibberish all the same--but not quite the kind of gibberish that makes it worth watching just to see how much nuttier it might get. However, I can see how it might appeal to a certain underserved portion of the viewing public that is so starved for something that comes close to fitting their needs that they are willing to be satisfied with nonsense like this. Instead of wasting your time and money on this silliness, may I be so bold as to point you in the direction of another, better film along the same lines? That film would be the 1979 cult classic “Time After Time,” a time-travel fantasy that has an irresistible initial premise (H.G. Wells develops a time machine as part of his research for the story of the same name) and then builds upon it with a compelling story (when a friend who turns out to be Jack the Ripper uses the machine to journey to contemporary San Francisco to avoid the police, Wells leaps ahead in time to follow him), a lot of wonderful jokes (since few people saw the movie when it first came out, writer-director Nicholas Meyer reused many of them in his screenplay for “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”) and a touching romance (between Wells and a modern woman who may be Jack’s next victim) that works because the people involved are characters and not ciphers. Trust me, if you watch “Time After Time,” you will be thrilled, amused and touched in equal measure. If, on the other hand, you settle for “The Time Traveler’s Wife” instead, you are like to be dividing your time between trying to figure out what the hell is going on and checking your watch to see when you can finally leap the hell out of the theater.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18628&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/14/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

8/07/14 iuqvoqkl USA 4 stars
8/01/11 Annie G love the book and thought the movie wasn’t too bad. 3 stars
4/21/11 Maya Jewell Temporal oddities aside. It rang the 'A River Runs Through It' bell for me, only better. 5 stars
3/27/11 Ask me again yesterday Liked it better when I saw it tomorrow than when I saw it next year. 3 stars
1/25/11 daveyt almost impossible to do the book justice... too much missing 3 stars
9/01/10 othree Straight Jacket w/o the surreal, violence and made for chicks. 3 stars
2/12/10 mr.mike It 's pretty good for a chick flick. 4 stars
1/19/10 lovergirl yechhh! drivel alert! boringgg & stupid. 1 stars
1/06/10 Streep A gentle, intriguing tale of love and loss 4 stars
11/13/09 Natalie Starboardman Worth a Look. Rachel McAdams's best movie since MEAN GIRLS. 4 stars
9/02/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Drama not sci-fi. Fatalistic, engaging, yet lacks Star Trek Reboot's galaxy-sized plot hole 4 stars
8/20/09 Suzanna Lee Warmly enigmatic, yes. Both leads really good, great supporting actors also. 5 stars
8/17/09 Chopper3 If you're soft of heart you'll love it. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Aug-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Feb-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  14-Aug-2009
  DVD: 09-Feb-2010




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