I wish I could go back in time, miss 'Timeline'

Category: Timeline Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: November 28, 2003 | Publication: Cox News Service | Author: LESLIE GRAY STREETER
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As an American, a firm believer in the First Amendment and a writer whose opinions pay for her tragic Target addiction, I respect your right to like whatever type of movie you want. The concept of "good" is highly personal, so what might seem an Oscar-worthy triumph to you might be my idea of exquisite, torturous pain.

But as much as I honor and value the opinions of others, I firmly believe that some movies are so amateurish, dunderheaded and horrendously made that "good" just cannot apply. "Timeline" is one of those movies. I see how you could sort of enjoy the escapism of its time-travel plot, the costumes or just looking at the pretty, pretty boys, including Paul Walker and the especially yummy Scottish movie muffin Gerard Butler.

However, you'll never, ever convince me that "Timeline," directed by Richard Donner and based on a Michael Crichton book, is good. It's sooo not good. If "Good" saw "Timeline "coming down the sidewalk, "Good" would cross the street, spit on the ground and bellow, "You are dead to me!"

For a movie to be "good," at least some part of it has to work _ the script, the acting, the music, the editing ... something. As it stands, "Timeline" suffers from moronic dialogue, seemingly ad-libbed performances that would have flunked any improv class, a cliched and overwrought "The hordes are approaching!" soundtrack, and huge, gaping holes in logic and story.

It appears to have been cobbled together with Krazy Glue and rusty paper clips. I'm assuming there are a mess of deleted scenes that would have answered some of my questions. And if the completed "Timeline" is the best of what Donner shot, I'm loath to imagine what the heck he cut. Oh, so loath am I.

Trying to dig up some sense

"Timeline" follows the allegedly exciting adventures of some archeologists, historians and Marines who travel back to 1357 France to rescue professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly), who has disappeared from his dig in modern-day southern France and somehow gotten himself stuck in the past. Dummy.

I honestly couldn't tell you exactly what the purpose of all this is, but it has something to do with an evil millionaire named Doniger (British actor David Thewlis), who is sponsoring the professor's dig and who has, with the help of several apparently shady scientists in his employ, invented a time machine. The movie might have explained why he did this _ maybe it didn't.

All I know is that Professor Johnston has disappeared, and a hardy band of adventurers, including the professor's cute but bland son Chris (Walker), Kate (Frances O'Connor), the boring archeologist Chris digs on, hot and heroic historian Marek (Butler), and mild-mannered French guy Francois (Rossif Sutherland), go back to get him.

Apparently, the only way to get back into the present is to press on these little coin-looking pendants they've been given, which have to be used in a clearing and pressed in a specific way. A movie with a clue would have reminded you exactly how many pendants are floating around, and made a big deal of reminding you every time somebody loses one.

But noooo. "Timeline" doesn't do that. It also leaves out a lot of crucial information, like just when the professor disappears. One minute, he's giving Chris relationship advice, and the next thing you know, the other characters are talking about how long he's been on a trip to New Mexico to see Doniger about the project.

"Wait," my sister asked me. "When the heck did he go to New Mexico? Where's that scene?"

Well, Sissy-Poo, that scene's not in "Timeline." It's missing along with the chemistry between Walker and O'Connor, who was so wonderful in "Mansfield Park" and is truly awful here. I'm not sure where it went, but I'm sure it's somewhere with my patience and the rest of my brain. If you find my brain, please tell it Mommy misses it and wants it to come on home.

A little love, actually

The only good thing about "Timeline," other than the ending credits, is a minor plot line involving historian Marek and Lady Claire (Anna Friel), a 14th-century noblewoman he falls for. Being good actors with a little bit of passion, Gerard Butler and Friel actually create characters worth cheering for. Of course, they are minor characters you don't see nearly enough of, leaving more room for Walker and O'Connor and their ridiculous love story. Gee, thanks!

If I could invent a time machine, I wouldn't have to go back to 14th-century France. I'd only need to go back to about two hours before I saw "Timeline," so I could have just gone home to watch "Survivor" instead.

The Flick Chick's Bottom Line: Don't waste your time on "Timeline."

Leslie Gray Streeter writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: leslie_streeter(at)pbpost.com.

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