By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Okay, fellas, here's our chance. The eternal search for a few hours away from honey-do lists and yes-dears ends with the debut of The Time Traveler's Wife.
For the price of a ticket — presented as a thoughtful gift, of course — we can ditch the wives for poker night without feeling guilty. They'll even thank us for it in the morning if not before, if you know what I mean, and I'm sure you do.
But if she insists that you join her at the theater, be brave. There's a fantasy aspect to the movie that dudes can employ to zone out: the hero's supernatural gift/curse of teleportation to another place, another time. Kind of like Star Trek without the phasers. Casting the bad guy from Capt. Kirk's last mission as the clock-warped lover helps.
Eric Bana's third summer movie appearance, after Star Trek and Funny People, is playing Henry DeTamble, the kind of warm and fuzzy lover that the Aussie hunk was genetically created to play. Henry suffers from something called chrono-impairment, sending him uncontrollably careening through his life.
Henry can be a child one minute, a gray-haired gentleman the next. His only clues that it's happening are a CGI body melt and the rustle of clothes hitting the floor. Henry always shows up at the next stop naked, which never failed to excite women at Monday's screening.
Aside from arranging a lottery windfall — Henry's lone sign of thinking like a real guy — he chases the love of his fractured life. You can't blame him since it's Rachel McAdams, with her beguiling smile and perfect dimples. McAdams plays Clare Abshire, whom Henry met when he was 40-something and she was 9. Awkward, but they soon catch up at a later, legal date.
Because Clare is independently wealthy thanks to her parentage, she can afford to sit around waiting for Henry to pop in. It's his abrupt departures that leave her blue, plus a couple of miscarriages possibly caused by Henry's chrono-impairment. This isn't sci-fi; it's sci-cry.
Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin previously handled pararomantic affairs with Ghost, winning an Academy Award. Another such success isn't likely, adapting Audrey Niffenegger's novel, apparently excising characterization. The Time Traveler's Wife is all about its gimmick and whatever chemistry McAdams and Bana manage, spending so much time apart.
In that regard, The Time Traveler's Wife isn't a bad movie, just not for everyone. Director Robert Schwentke fashions two very good scenes, when adult Henry meets his mother, who died when he was a child, and a lovely camera pan through the DeTamble home revealing five years passing. McAdams and Bana make an attractive couple deserving more than the script offers.
But, hey, whatever women want, right, guys? Buy her a ticket and yourself some time. Then shut up and deal.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.