Ever since “The Notebook,” the most romantic phenomenon in history, came to life, people have had high expectations for any romantic film or chick flick starring Rachel McAdams, but honestly, it is usually either hit or miss. The highly anticipated (and overly marketed) “The Vow” was a cinematic flatline, and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was definitely not a critical favorite. McAdams took another swing at tying the knot with a time traveler in “About Time,” out Nov. 8, written and directed by Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill,” “Love Actually”). The film also stars English actors Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy.
All in all, “About Time” has all of the ingredients required in your typical romantic comedy: the awkward guy, who, no matter how many chances he gets, cannot seem to master talking to a girl; the beautiful girl with a job in publishing; boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; and some sort of conflict ensues. But no matter what, the boy and the girl always end up together. Did the ingredients mesh well together? It certainly didn’t create something spectacular, just average.
The difference between this movie and your typical romantic comedy is that there’s this little thing called time travel involved. Tim (Gleeson) receives rather big news on his 21st birthday: his father (Nighy) reveals to Tim that the men in the family have the ability to travel backward in time and then return to the present. Isn’t this the perfect power for a goofy, socially awkward man who definitely needs to redo a few moments in life? Ideally, yes. But of course, time travel has its consequences that could take its toll on Tim and his family. Tim is faced with issues that any normal, non-time-traveling bloke would go through: temptation to cheat, becoming a father, helping a fallen sibling recover, etc. No spoilers, I promise.
The issue with films that involve time travel is that they tend to get repetitive. After the first few times that Tim goes back in time to win Mary’s (McAdams) heart, it’s funny and sweet, making all the girls in the theater wish they had a British ginger to fall in love with. He met Mary three times before finally succeeding, and by the third time, you wish he would have gotten his act together by the second.
The film does get points for not focusing solely on the love story between Tim and Mary. While their story is a prominent aspect of the film, the audience also gets to explore Tim’s close relationship with his fun-loving, bookworm father, who has a warmness to him that makes him likable from the start. Nighy, who has worked with Curtis before in “Love Actually,” plays the part of the wise father figure perfectly, although seeing more of him may have given the film a bit more substance. One emotional scene in particular involving Tim and his father will leave you unable to stop crying. If you don’t cry, then your tear ducts are broken and you should consult your physician.
Gleeson, whom viewers will best recognize as Bill Weasley from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” gives a phenomenal performance as Tim. He brings an innocence to the screen that makes Tim’s hysterically awkward personality completely believable. Gleeson’s transformation from a lanky red-haired virgin to a handsome, responsible family man, just like his father, is perfectly timed, no matter how many times he time travels.
McAdams, as always, plays the part of the cute girl-next-door well, but again, it’s nothing we haven’t seen from her in the past. So nothing new there, but she is always likable, except for her way-too-short bangs that eventually grow out by the end of the movie, thank goodness.
The overall quality of “About Time” is in the eye of the beholder. Any film with a strong cast; a quirky, smart and humorous script; and beautiful cinematography of gray and scenic England can make it to the finish line. “About Time” definitely reaches the finish line and entertains audiences, but it doesn’t have the best time in the race. The film would have been perfect if it didn’t drag on so long and if Tim didn’t overuse his ability to time travel and almost unravel his life. The film tries its best with an encouraging message to live life in the moment and go through every day, good or bad, as if it is your last. Heartfelt, right? Alas, it’s nothing that can’t wait until it’s on DVD.