TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, THE(director: Robert Schwentke; screenwriters: Bruce Joel Rubin/based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger; cinematographer: Florian Ballhaus; editor: Thom Noble; music: Mychael Danna; cast: Rachel McAdams (Clare), Eric Bana (Henry), Alex Ferris (Henry at 6), Michelle Nolden (Henry’s Mom), Arliss Howard (Richard DeTamble), Ron Livingston (Gomez), Stephen Tobolowsky (Dr. David Kendrick), Jane McLean (Charisse), Brooklynn Proulx (Young Clare); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Nick Wechsler/Dede Gardner; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2009)
“Wears on one’s wits with its senseless hokum and dour melodramatics.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A spacey time travel sci-fi romancer that defies narrative logic and wears on one’s wits with its senseless hokum and dour melodramatics until it becomes an unbearably gooey and irrational tale about two soulmates who have a big problem in finding and losing each other. This pic bombs inspite of appealing leads such as the always radiant Rachel McAdams and the usually charming Eric Bana, who bravely try to act out such an absurd conceit with straight faces. Robert Schwentke (“Flightplan”/ “Tattoo”/ “Heaven!”) directs without keeping it grounded. It’s based on the 2004 chic-lit bestseller by Audrey Niffenegger, whose lighthearted paranormal tale does not translate well to film. It’s written in a confusing, heavy-handed and emotionally inert way by Bruce Joel Rubin, who previously pulled the wool over Hollywood’s eyes by winning an Oscar for his screenplay of the sappy Ghost.
We first meet Henry DeTamble (Alex Ferris) as a six-year-old, whose opera-star mother (Michelle Nolden) gets killed in a fiery car crash on a wintry suburban Chicago (shot in Toronto) road while he survives and is inexplicably blessed/cursed with the ability to be unwillingly hurled through space as a naked time traveler–with no control over when or where he winds up.
The older version of Henry (Eric Bana) suddenly pops up at the accident scene to comfort the kid by telling him he has just traveled through time and that they both have the ability — or is it the uncontrollable impulse — to travel between past, present and future. If you still want to stay with this nonsense, there’s an ongoing love story that randomly veers back and forth across Henry’s life span. The pivotal story begins when the 28-year-old Henry, a Chicago research librarian, meets for the first-time (or so he thinks) in the library where Henry is employed the future love of his life, the dewy-eyed 20-year-old art student named Clare (Rachel McAdams), who remembers him as the stalker she fell for as a child. But before you can say sssh!, we’re in a family’s garden and a naked adult named Henry is hiding in the bushes and is trying to convince the 6-year-old Clare (Brooklynn Proulx) he’s her friend without frightening her further that he’s also the future love of her life (never mind that he’s now seemingly a stalker!).
The remainder of this dreary and humorless tearjerker relationship pic, which was awkwardly told and executed, is about the problems of being a time traveler’s wife (like hubby missing birthdays and holidays) and of being a Chrono-Impaired time traveler who can’t change the future.
I learned a number of things from this pic: 1-Time-travelers travel in the nude and when landing in town must steal clothes. 2-Singing Jingle Bells during the holiday season while driving with a youngster on an icy road could be fatal. 3-Stories that make no sense are hard to get involved with emotionally. 4-That this pic is so lame it even makes its mediocre thematic cousin “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” look like a masterpiece in comparison.
REVIEWED ON 8/19/2009 GRADE: D
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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