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Don't let's do the time warp again

Category: Timeline Reviews
Article Date: December 5, 2003 | Publication: DAILY MAIL (London) | Author: CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY

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Verdict: One of the silliest action dventures in history (turkey)

TIMELINE is Stargate for the stupid. Not that Stargate was intellectual, but at least it didn't seem to have been written by illiterates and directed by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

Amazingly, one of the co-writers (Jeff Maguire) once wrote a good Clint Eastwood thriller called In The Line Of Fire, and the director is Richard Donner, whose credits in his prime included The Omen, Superman and Lethal Weapon.

This pre-Christmas turkey fails to rise even to the dizzying heights of Donner's Lethal Weapon 4. Based on a Michael Crichton novel, from which any ideas have been surgically removed, it's about a hairy Scots archaeologist (Billy Connolly) who becomes stranded in 1357, as the result of a time travel experiment by mad scientist David Thewlis.

Poor old Billy. The only people who can save him are his improbably all-American son (Paul Walker, the frighteningly talentless nonentity from The Fast And The Furious) and his beautiful archaeologist girlfriend (Frances O'Connor, who looks panicked but does have the script's one memorable line, when she asks Thewlis plaintively: 'Do we look like quantum wormhole specialists?').

They are aided by a hunky Scotsman (Gerard Butler, giving his impersonation of Viggo Mortensen in The Lord Of The Rings, and doing it rather well), plus a few expendable ex-marines and minor archaeologists to give the bad guys some spearing, hacking and archery practice.

The script is tragically devoid of period atmosphere. More than an hour in, someone makes an attempt at authenticity with the line: 'There's a goodly number of trebuchets, my lord!' But it's far, far too late, and only gets a laugh.

PAUL WALKER is even drearier and more embarrassing than in his previous movies, making you want to look anywhere on the screen but at him. This guy could actually benefit from having acting lessons from Keanu Reeves.

The script doesn't help Walker by giving him absolutely nothing interesting, intelligent or attractive to say or do. At one point, he tries to bolster his team's confidence against the medieval heavies with the words: 'We've got 650 years of knowledge on these guys!' And then what does he do? Knocks someone out with a rock. So much for progress.

Anna Friel, who impersonates a medieval French princess with a vocabulary of only two words ('Allez!' and 'Vite!'), and her real-life chap Thewlis are almost as excruciating. This is Thewlis's worst performance, and the only reason I don't say the same of Friel is that she once starred in a movie called Mad Cows, which was even more ghastly and made her recite bad puns by Kathy Lette.

Timeline is the kind of blockbuster so blockheaded that it almost deserves the accolade 'so bad it's good'. Those who are not driven screaming from the cinema by Miss Friel's attempts to sound French may find it hard to avoid the temptation to hurl crudits at the screen.

If only this were a soupcon cheesier, a tad less tedious, it might have a weird entertainment value. But no - the most expensive movie of the week is also the least watchable.

So splendidly wrongheaded is it that it actually expects a modern American audience to root for the French against the English. I suppose it might go down better in France, except there they'll be too busy laughing at Miss Friel's accent.

Copyright 2003 Associated Newspapers Ltd.


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