If I could revisit my past, the first thing I'd do is travel several hours back and not see The Time Traveler's Wife.
Seldom has a romantic fantasy drummed up by Hollywood been so drab and ridiculous. Not a moment here makes any sense. What's worse is, by the time you crawl out of the theater, whacked into submission by the idiocy of the tale, you'll feel no one involved in this pallid product comprehends its premise either. No wonder the lead character asks, "Is this too weird?"
Based upon Audrey Niffenegger's acclaimed bestseller, this 500-page tome has proven too unwieldy for screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who was more surefooted with Patrick Swayze's Ghost and the brilliant temporal nightmare Jacob's Ladder.
The hero here is one Henry De Tamble, a Chicago librarian suffering from "Chrono Displacement" disorder, which causes him to disappear and reappear in different eras of his life without any control or clothing.
This vaporization first occurs when Henry is sitting behind his mother, an opera singer, in the family car. While the pair is singing "Jingle Bells," their vehicle is fatally hit by a truck, no doubt driven by a part-time music critic.
Next, we run into a thirtyish Henry when he's standing nude behind some bushes. He's trying to grab the attention of a little girl named Clare who is picnicking by herself. Thankfully, all he wants is her blanket, but it still makes you feel uncomfortable.
What's more creepy is that Henry falls in love with the grownup Clare (Rachel McAdams) and has sex with her and then keeps revisiting younger virginal Clares. It's sort of soft-core porn for pederasts who are into sci-fi.
The confusing part, though, is that there can be more than two Henrys in the same time period, even one with a vasectomy and one without, so you can chose whom to screw depending on your getting-pregnant needs.
I could tell you more, but that would spoil the fun of your banging your head against a box of Milk Duds in disbelief during a viewing of this film.
What could have made all this palatable? Maybe if German import Robert Schwentke could direct; maybe if legendary cinematographer Florian Ballhaus had come up with an interesting visual take on the story; and maybe if composer Mychael Danna's score hadn't been so pedestrian. But the core of the problem here is that there's no chemistry between the two stars. You can never figure out why McAdams is all aglow, even with Bana's bare butt showing up every ten minutes or so. He just doesn't radiate earthiness.
But what you'll be able to comprehend is why Clare starts losing patience with her spouse after his hundredth dematerialization: "A Bana in hand is better than two in the bush."
Alternatives: For classier fantasy love odes, try The Enchanted Cottage (1945) with Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire and Somewhere in Time (1980) with Christopher Reeve. Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946) is nothing to sneeze at either. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently starring in Rosa von Praunheim's New York Memories, which is still in production. In the fall, he'll be teaching "The Arts in New York City" at City College. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, The Advocate, and dozens of other publications.