Timeline

2003, Movie, PG-13, 116 mins

Review

TIMELINE
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"You're not serious!" harrumphs Professor Johnston (Billy Connolly) as this ludicrous time-travel adventure staggers into the home stretch, and he could be speaking for every unfortunate in the audience. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton and directed by veteran filmmaker Richard Donner, this $80 million disaster features good actors giving terrible performances and bad actors giving worse ones. All the knights, flaming arrows and trebuchets (giant catapults) can't fill the yawning void where convincing characters and a credible story — at least on its own preposterous terms — should be. Johnston is leading an archeological dig at Castelgard, France, underwritten by mysterious American conglomerate ITC. Curious about how his benefactors know so much about Castelgard, Johnston flies to ITC's New Mexico headquarters to find out, leaving the dig to capable Kate Ericson (Frances O'Connor) and Andre Marek (Gerard Butler). Johnston's son, Chris (Paul Walker), who sneers at losers obsessed with the past, stays to pursue his crush on Kate. A couple of days later, Kate makes an amazing discovery: a note in Professor Johnston's handwriting, pleading for help and dated 1357. Accompanied by physicist Josh Stern (Ethan Embry) and French graduate student Francois (Rossif Sutherland), Kate, Chris and Andre demand answers from ITC head Robert Doniger (David Thewlis), who gives them a staggering explanation: ITC has accidentally tapped into a wormhole to the past — to be precise, a wormhole to Castelgard on April 4, 1357, the day it fell to English invaders. Professor Johnston persuaded Doniger to send him back, but something went wrong and he's missing. So the team — minus lab geek Stern and plus ITC security head Frank Gordon (Neal McDonough) and two goons — returns to a past in which everyone has flawless teeth and speaks 21st-century English and/or French. With only hours in which to rescue the professor, the gang squanders valuable time flirting — Andre even manages to fall for a medieval Frenchwoman (Anna Friel) who is destined to die that night unless he's willing to fiddle with history. What a dilemma! Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, Doniger's crew tries desperately to repair the malfunctioning time machine before it's too late to bring back the travelers. Filled with pseudoscientific gibble-gabble, arbitrary time-travel rules, howlingly clichéd dialogue and renaissance-fair ambience, this dreary science-fiction/historical-action hybrid is a misfire of staggering proportions. Would that someone could go back in time and prevent it from ever going into production. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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