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Wandering ‘Time Traveler’ Stuck in Dullsville


The "Time Traveler's Wife" is a slog rather than the sweeping romance it aspires to be.

Meant to be grand in the irresistibly starry-eyed vein of 1980's "Somewhere in Time" or 1990's "Ghost," instead it's dull and sappy.

The problems start with the script. The movie adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's best-selling 2003 novel is convoluted and mired in minutiae, which prevents the viewer from getting caught up in the decades-long love story.

Even the title is a misnomer. The tale is more focused on Henry (Eric Bana), who has a genetic anomaly that causes him to be suddenly transported to another time, than it is on his wife, Clare (Rachel McAdams).

Clare meets the adult Henry when she is 6 years old. She explains that he quickly became her best friend and secret crush. Though the time-travel narrative is supposed to capture the progression of a life-long love, it's disconcerting to watch a pre-pubescent girl have recurring meetings with a grown man who suddenly appears in her family's garden out of nowhere. And he's stark naked.

Mindful of the seeming impropriety, Henry attempts to be modest and land behind some thick shrubbery on his visits. Soon Clare begins leaving her father's old clothes at the outskirts of her family's estate in preparation for Henry's surprise stopovers.

When they are both roughly the same age, they meet again. Clare, now an artist, has eagerly anticipated this day. They marry and try to have a semblance of a normal life, even as Henry continues to skip back and forth between the years, with virtually no control over his comings and goings.

We learn that there are certain "triggers" to his peripatetic condition. His flights can be exacerbated by stress - what isn't these days? - and can catch him unaware if he is overtired. Even sci-fi romances, apparently, are grounded in the mundane realities of our contemporary society. But his flights are nonetheless a problem and expose him to a wide range of dangers.

Though Bana and McAdams make a lovely couple and do their level best to strike up sparks, their romance is lost among the complex comings and goings and the arcane rules and limitations of time travel.

The "Time Traveler's Wife" tries to transcend time and place, but it ultimately becomes bogged down in details.

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