August 20, 2009

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The Time Traveler’s Wife (PG-13)
Eric Bana is all but one kinds of naked in the ushy gushy romance The Time Traveler’s Wife, a nice weepy about being married to a distant man.

Not emotionally distant. Not even just physically distant. Henry (Bana) is temporally distant. He has a genetic abnormality that causes him to jump through time, visiting his younger or older self and visiting his wife Clare (Rachel McAdams in Clare’s adult years) as her younger and older self as well. But while he can, for example, visit himself as a young boy (Alex Ferris) or his wife years before they officially “meet,” his clothes can not travel with him, thus necessitating a life of breaking into places to steal pants and of running from the police. (It also means we get to see plenty of Bana bum, though as the movie is PG-13 no little Hulk sightings.)

All this jumping can be confusing — his wife knows more or less that she’s going to be his wife (or at least his serious girlfriend) years before he knows who she is. She also knows about his condition and where he can turn for help. And it causes him to be late, as when he jumped away right before his first date with his wife or when he jumped right before his wedding. Luckily, on that occasion, an older version of Henry jumps into the wedding day roughly when younger Henry jumps out, so Clare does get a chance to marry Henry, even if he’s about 20 years older than she’s expecting.

The issues with jumping become even more heartbreaking when the couple tries to have a child. Even in the womb, Henry’s offspring seems to have some of his urges to jump, leading to dire consequences.

Two people in epic love, one weird complication — that’s pretty much every love story and this movie plays out like pretty much every love story. Despite the kooky setup and the fun conversation-starters (is Clare cheating if she makes out with a Henry from a different time?), you get here what you’re paying for if you willingly buy a ticket to a movie like this. Pretty people long for each other, have romantic kisses and endure the suffering that comes from the fear of loss — specifically, Clare’s fear of what can happen to Henry when he jumps and Henry’s fear of losing Clare because she doesn’t want to put up with a suddenly absent husband.

It’s all fairly conventional but basically enjoyable if this hearts-and-flowers stuff is your cup of tea. Bana and McAdams turn in workmanlike if not standout performances, and supporting characters — the incredulous doctor played by Stephen Tobolowsky, the lifelong friend played by Ron Livingston — add moments of humor or emotion when called for. It’s all professional — not brilliant but well past acceptable. The Time Traveler’s Wife is like a dress that you wouldn’t wear on the red carpet but that is perfect for a mid-week night out — not a work of haute couture genius but a well-made off-the-rack garment. C+

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality. Directed by Robert Schwentke and written by Bruce Joel Rubin (from the novel by Audrey Niffenegger), The Time Traveler’s Wife is an hour and 48 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.