Mark Reviews Movies

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Robert Schwentke

Cast: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston, Arliss Howard, Stephn Tobolowsky, Jame McLean

MPAA Rating:  (for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 8/14/09



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Review by Mark Dujsik

Later in the day after seeing The Time Traveler's Wife, I was browsing through books, and sure enough, there was Audrey Niffenegger's novel upon which the movie was based. I learned some interesting factoids about Niffenegger from perusing the back cover, like that she teaches for the Masters (of Fine Arts) program at Chicago's own Columbia College.

That's actually all I learned. A quick Wikipedia check shows me she also has dabbled in graphic novels, which I looked up in the middle of writing that last paragraph.

That last paragraph is an example of causality. I wrote something in the first paragraph, realized I had slightly exaggerated, and decided to do some further research to belatedly back up the first paragraph. Causality is a fairly rational way of looking at and analyzing all sorts of aspects of life.

It's also a pain in the neck when it comes to the concept of time travel. Some have tried the whole Butterfly Effect theory, which (in time traveling conceit, I read as) would mean if someone stepped on a butterfly on a trip to the past, it could potentially affect life in the "future."

That brings up the whole theory that, since the "future" has already happened in the past, it can't change unless there's an alternate timeline/universe for that action to affect (It's also one of the rationales that time travel itself is improbable, if not impossible). Thankfully, Niffenegger and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin don't venture into that territory. Their approach is that the future cannot be changed.

Which is why Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana), love to as he may, cannot change the fact that his mother was killed in a car accident when he was a boy—an accident he escaped by traveling through time and eventually appearing outside of the car right before it happened.

He may not be able to change that according to the rules established by the movie, however, he can, years and years after meeting her, go back in time to see his wife Clare (Rachel McAdams) as a young girl, instilling in her a girlish desire to marry this time traveler and eventually setting up a time and place in her future where Henry will meet Clare for the first time, establishing their relationship in the first place.

Some might say this is bending the rules a little bit. I say it's breaking the rules in half, stomping on them, tossing them in the stove, and then throwing them right out the window.

See, the only reason Henry and Clare meet is because the Henry who's married to Clare later on gets her to meet him. In other words, there's no way, according to the rules the movie has set up, they could meet.

Theoretical physicists would do best to avoid this movie, as their cerebellums may fuse solely from the premise (not to mention that Henry technically travels through time and space, which according to theory seems even more improbable than the already improbable, if not impossible, concept of time travel).

I've spent a lot of time on this, and let's face it, not too many people will care. Yes, the movie heavily features time (and space) traveling, but it is, of course, a romance about two people who are apparently so meant for each other that even the laws of the movie's own story cannot keep them apart.

They meet. He disappears a lot. She loves him. He disappears some more. She gets tired of it. They fight. She still loves him, though. He disappears. His "past" self appears to her after his "future" self has had a vasectomy and gets her pregnant.

It's nothing that hasn't been done before (except for the whole past self knocking her up thing), and it's all quite silly. Director Robert Schwentke gives the movie a dreadfully mystical tone that highlights all the silliness, and Bana and McAdams look doey-eyed at each other. McAdams scrunches up her face to show that she's mad/disillusioned, but considering she's the titular character and the title hints the focus is on her inherent problem, there's a lot missing.

Basically, the only thing that separates The Time Traveler's Wife from a long string of similar fare is the time travel gimmick, which falls apart under even the tiniest bit of scrutiny, and the rest is bland, boring tear-jerker fodder.

Going back to my original setup of looking at the book at the store: I did not buy it. Once again, that's causality.

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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