Monday, November 18, 2013

Movie Review: Balance of sap, silliness makes 'About Time' a sweet treat

This movie review was originally published on KPC Media Group's website and in the Sunday editions of its daily newspapers. Read the original review here. Reprinted on the Pop Tarts blog with permission.

Watching "About Time" is like watching a tricky balancing act.

It would be easy for it to tip over and fall into gag-worthy sticky-sweet sentimentality, but every time it sticks its toe into the pool of sap, it throws in a dash of spice and the movie is back on track. There was only one scene that really had me rolling my eyes in a way rarely seen outside of a Nicholas Sparks romance, and it was short-lived. Overall, "About Time" had just the right mix of gooshy goodness and quirky humor.

The movie follows Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) who, at the age of 21, is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men of his family can travel through time. They can't change history, in the sense that they couldn't go back and kill Hitler or anything, but they can travel within their own timelines and change their lives. His father used the time to get some extra reading done, but Tim decides to do what any gawky, nerdy-cute, single 21-year-old would do - he uses his power to get a girlfriend.

Enter Mary (Rachel McAdams), an adorable American girl Tim meets when he moves to London. After a series of fits and starts brought on by Tim's time-travel, the pair of them begin their ordinary lives together - made just a little more extraordinary by Tim's gift.

"About Time" works despite its relatively simple concept. Yes, time travel is not exactly "normal" in the real world, but since Tim is an ordinary man who can only travel back in his own history, there isn't really much he can do except improve or further screw up his life. There are no massive repercussions for the world when this man goes back in time. There is no "butterfly effect," where some small change causes big differences to other people. Everything that Tim changes effects Tim's little world - his parents, his girlfriend, his friends. The movie, therefore, becomes a celebration of the things in life that are beautiful but, in the great scheme of things, mundane - a chance meeting at a restaurant, a wedding, a walk on the beach.

"About Time" also features a pair of perfectly likeable but, ultimately, slightly dull characters. Tim and Mary are certainly cute and blandly charming, but they wouldn't be able to carry a movie without the help of the quirky, deliciously acted characters that surround them. Not only is Tim's father a delight as played by Bill Nighy, but his spacy sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), earthy mother (Lindsay Duncan), dorky friend Rory (Joshua McGuire), crazy uncle (Richard Cordery) and perpetually discontented family friend and playwright Harry (Tom Hollander) all lend some personality to the film.

In the capable hands of chick-flick master Richard Curtis, everything works just as it should. "About Time," which Curtis wrote and directed, is reminscent of Curtis' other, similar works - the "Bridget Jones" movies, "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." While it doesn't quite live up to my favorite of Curtis' movies, "Love Actually," "About Time" has the same charm, humor and warmth that made his other works so famous and well-loved.

"About Time" takes a gauzy look at ordinary life, but does it in such a way that there's still a little sass and a touch of silly fun to temper the sap. It's one of those warm, fuzzy movies that, sometimes, is just what you need. It isn't an earth-shaking movie, and it doesn't have a terribly deep meaning, but it is a fun, sweet morsel of a movie.

Jenny's Take: See it before it leaves theaters.

(Rated R for language and some sexual content. Runs 123 minutes.)

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