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With: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston, Arliss Howard, Stephen Tobolowsky
Written by: Bruce Joel Rubin, based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality
Running Time: 107
Date: 08/14/2009

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tick Tock Heartbeat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin adapted The Time Traveler's Wife from Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel. Given that it's a romance with science fiction elements, it makes sense that Rubin was the man for the job, especially since he won an Oscar for writing the 1990 mega-hit Ghost. But Ghost had going for it some very funny scenes, mainly driven by a similarly Oscar-winning Whoopi Goldberg, as well as a bit of action and suspense. It's difficult to say what may have transpired between Rubin's final draft of The Time Traveler's Wife and the actual beginning of production, but I suspect that as soon as Rachel McAdams was cast, the emphasis went from making another Ghost to making another The Notebook. That means taking out all the funny, tense stuff and replacing it with goopy gauze.

So, despite the words "time traveler" in the title, no guy will voluntarily want to see this, but if you're a chick, the film has its warm, cuddly charms. Eric Bana stars as Henry DeTamble, the time traveler of the title. Since he was a kid, he occasionally disappears from his own time and re-appears in some other time, either past or future. He can't control when these time-shifts happen and he can't control how long he's gone. He only travels to major events pertaining to his own life. He also can't change anything when he gets there (the movie avoids any sticky time paradoxes this way). The movie never explains this phenomenon, other than to say that it's genetic. People rarely mention dates or ages. The biggest drama is that Henry arrives without any clothes, and so he has learned lock-picking skills in order to acquire clothes and preserve his modesty.

McAdams plays Claire, who as a little girl meets the full-grown Henry during one of his time-visits. She grows up on his semi-regular visits, dreaming of the day she gets to marry him. When they finally meet as consenting adults, she knows all about him, but he has never seen her before. No matter. They're destined for each other, and what's more romantic than that? Arguably the movie's best scene takes place at their wedding, where Henry phases out just before he's supposed to walk down the aisle, but a neat solution presents itself. I was hoping for the other half of this scene at the movie's climax, but apparently the filmmakers either chopped it out, or else it never even occurred to them.

Director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) gives the movie an intense, interior look at the unfolding relationship but at the expense of several interesting, exterior ideas. The film hints at subplots that were once there, but leaves them dangling, as if they were mercilessly snipped off at the roots. For example, Stephen Tobolowsky is a welcome addition to the movie as a geneticist who is interested in helping Henry, but his scenes come to very little in the grand scheme of things, since it would require more scientific detail than the movie is comfortable with. It's not a very smart movie, but it's good at hiding this fact. It's not very good, however, at hiding its sentimental syrupy coating. I just wish the movie had found a way to show some laughter through its tears.

DVD Details: The DVD from New Line comes with a bunch of trailers and a pretty standard-issue little making-of featurette (22 minutes), though it's nice to know that McAdams was a longtime fan of the book and was genuinely thrilled to be able to be in the movie.

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