About Time

Time travel is such a hokey plot gimmick. A few decades ago, time travel was used sparingly. Now, it’s a part of so many fantasy/sci-fi movies and TV shows that it has become ho-hum. Am I fatigued with time travel? God, yes!

Having said that, in About Time, the device of time travel delivers a romantic comedy with that’s sweet and funny. Sure it’s a gimmick, but in this case, it works.

About Time is written and directed by Richard Curtis who is best known for writing Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and, in his debut as a director, Love, Actually. He also wrote the scripts for the two Bridget Jones movies. His movies are romantic, sensitive and, happily, funny. And generally set in the UK, as is this one.

Curtis does two daring things in About Time. First, he has cast as his male lead a relatively unknown, Domhnall Gleeson, a lanky ginger who was Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter movies. Gleeson is up to the task as Tim. He is fun and funny as a guy who uses the time travel trick to great advantage.

Second, Curtis has a scene where two guys meet two girls in a restaurant that’s totally dark. That’s right, the screen is black for a good couple of minutes as the guys chat up the ladies without benefit of seeing them. I’m not sure this literal blackout scene is a success, but it is memorable.

One of the unseen ladies is Mary (Rachel McAdams) who becomes Tim’s chosen love, thanks to a little time traveling by Tim. She’s earned her rom-com cred in The Vow and The Notebook, not to mention the raunchy rom-com Wedding Crashers. She is sexy, but in a non-sleazy sort of way. (Her dimples appear to get deeper with every film she makes.)

Tim’s Dad and Mum are Bill Nighy and Lindsey Duncan. Nighy is in great form as the one who shares the gift of time travel with his son. Curtis has handed him some good laugh lines and he lands them neatly.

Traveling in time cleans up many of life’s messes for Tim, just as it has for his dad. And that hokey gimmick is what gives About Time its charm.

The big question: Does Rachel McAdams have the star power to generate ticket sales? Because Domhnall Gleeson, as good as he is, is not a star. About Time will need good word-of-mouth to get bodies into movie houses. Here are my words from my mouth: If you like good rom-coms, you’ll like About Time.

 

 

 

 

The Big Wedding

The Big Wedding is a big mess. First clue: all-star cast. Second clue: gratuitous f-bombs and a few seconds of nudity designed to clinch an R rating. Third clue: a contract required by Lionsgate, insuring that I will reveal nothing about the movie before 9:00 p.m. CDT on April 25 and will share no spoilers ever.

There are some laughs, to be sure, in The Big Wedding, though not as many as one might hope for. The set-up: Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton are exes. Susan Sarandon is DeNiro’s girlfriend. Adopted son is about to get married. Son’s bio-mom from Colombia is strict Catholic who doesn’t believe in divorce, so son asks DeNiro and Keaton to pretend they’re still wed while bio-mom is visiting. Hey, successful film and TV comedies have been built around flimsier situations.

The bride (Amanda Seyfried), her parents, other extended family and even the priest (Robin Williams) provide additional sub-set-ups. In most cases, you can figure out exactly what’s going to happen.

Apparently Topher Grace is now out of the witness protection program or rehab or wherever he’s been. He plays DeNiro/Keaton’s son who receives a dinner table sexual favor in a scene that was much funnier eight years ago in Wedding Crashers. Katherine Heigl, whose ’09 movie The Ugly Truth similarly ramped up the raunch, rendering an R-rated romcom, plays Topher’s sad sister.

The Big Wedding provides a modest amount of amusement. It runs just 90 minutes which means, with 20 minutes of trailers beforehand, you’ll barely have time to finish that mondo-size box of Raisinets.

The cumulative star power of a movie like The Big Wedding (and various Garry Marshall holiday-related films) actually can, I believe, make such a movie more bearable. On the other hand, if you go because you particularly like one individual star in the cast, you will inevitably be disappointed because your favorite has to share his or her screen time with so many others.

And maybe the R rated content will please many who tire of formulaic PG-13 romantic comedy fare that toes the line. In a world with HBO and Showtime original content dialing up the sex/language quotient, The Big Wedding could be right on the money with its f-bombs and bare butt. But I don’t think so.

(Special note to the Lionsgate legal team vetting this review for spoilers: I’m flattered that you care! Reminder: If you were required to watch this mess, that’s 1.5 billable hours!)