by Jason Whyte
I don't know why I keep giving Richard Donner a chance. Every time the guy comes out with a new film, and that's rare these days, my eyes widen a bit and I think "Okay, the guy who made "Superman", "Maverick", "Goonies" and "Lethal Weapon 1 and 2"" is at it again! Sure, the guy has had a not-so-good film from time to time ("Conspiracy Theory," "Assassins" and "Lethal Weapon 4" immediately come to mind), but Donner has always had an accessible style and a good sense of humour in his films. That is, until his 2003 film which feels like a Donner cometh out of nowhere.I only saw the theatrical teaser of this film prior to seeing it, which was just a few fleeting shots of 14th-century costumes, fireballs and several shots of Paul Walker jerking his head around with an "Oh dude, no!" look on his face. I was still slightly intrigued with Donner at the helm, and I could accept Paul Walker's just-being-there if everything else was up to snuff. Hey, I gave both "The Fast and the Furious" films positive grades, so there's proof right there.
"'I SWEAR, we're in 1374 Castlegard, France!'"
Sadly, "Timeline" is empty and devoid of any real entertainment value. It's merely a bunch of archaeological students running around trying to save Paul Walker's daddy who has been somehow "faxed" into 14th-century France by way of a machine that has been recently designed to fax items from one place to another. Once the team of students and military are in, the clock is running (by way of a small clock pendant around their necks, of course, to keep tension going) to save him before the wormhole closes.
The movie plods along from action to running, a few moments for one of the professors to fall in love with a French dame (Anna Friel from "Me Without You"), more running, some more action, more running, all leading to a fictionalized Hundred Years War in France, with the British stationed inside the castle while the French are in infantry outside the castle, and about all this looks like is a bunch of people standing around reacting to fireballs and arrows hitting their targets. There's even a bit during the battle where someone on the inside of the castle detonates the British firepower, and nary a single Frenchman on the ground even reacts to it. I would have loved for a commander to turn around and say, "Did we do that?"
It's not just Paul Walker who is bad in this movie. Smaller, lesser-known actors like Frances O'Connor, Ethan Embry, David Thewlis and Matt Craven do embarrassing, one-note work, too. On the plus side, Gerard Butler, the likeable partner from the "Tomb Raider" sequel, shows promise for leading roles in the future, and Martin Csoaks, who I will always remember as the bad guy from "xXx" and the sleazy producer in "Garage Days", still keeps his bad guy charisma strong here.I still am a fan of Richard Donner's work, but sorry, this movie is a clunker, all the more for the classic bad line I will remember from this movie. After the crew has been "faxed" over, Walker doesn't believe they're in the past. Surrounded by forest and a nearby river, Walker actually says, "For all I know, we're at my grandmother's house in Oregon!" To which the military commander replies: "I SWEAR, we're in 1374 Castlelgard, France!"
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8364&reviewer=350
originally posted: 12/01/03 05:00:08