Director Richard Donner hasn't made a film since "Lethal Weapon 4" and there's a reason. It's kind of like the Keyshawn Johnson situation: You do something that's detrimental to the team and they don't let you play anymore. In Donner's case, you make a movie like "Lethal Weapon 4" that's detrimental to humanity, and you have to sit directing out for a bit. In a lot of smaller countries, they just throw you in a prison camp.
Donner may end up being banned for life after "Timeline," a movie based on a best-selling Michael Crichton book. It's not like Crichton's books are hard to follow. They're all pretty much the same: Scientists encounter something new and fascinating and then have to find a way to deal with it after it gets out of their control. Somehow Donner and his screenwriters managed to FUBAR this very simple concept. I knew it was going to be a complete failure because when the kids get back to the 14th century, everybody has good teeth. So much for detail.
90% of the script consists of the actors looking befuddled and uttering exclamation after exclamation: "Look at that!", "Follow me!", "Run for it!", "Get down!", "Over there!", "Run!", "I don't believe it!" The casting is about the worst for any movie in recent memory. Paul Walker might be the most one-dimensional actor on the face of the Earth. He makes Keanu Reeves look like an emotive force. The only character this guy can play is the slightly likable former frat boy. Here he plays a slightly likable former fratboy whose archaeologist father, Prof. Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly), travels in time via a wormhole to 14th century France. Consequently, Chris (Walker) and his father's students go back to find him. Chris has a thing for one of these students, Kate (Frances O'Connor). Their romantic chemistry rivals that of Roseanne and Tom Arnold. Their "romance" reminded me of watching chimps on National Geographic.
Donner actively tries to suck the life out of this film and his actors. Compared to the book, it couldn't be less exciting, but what can one expect from a film that leaves its actors with little more to do than scream yell every now and again. Frances O'Connor is awful. The main thing I remember about her character is that she's the best climber of the group, a point she makes to convince everyone she should climb on the roof of a building. She sounds like a kindergartener screaming for her time in the sandbox. Connolly, who's normally reasonably compelling, is also left with nothing to do. Back home in the future, the evil wormhole machine guy, Robert Doniger (David Thewlis), produces an accent that sounds like he forgot to pull an x-ray board out of his mouth after a dental examination.
This is a movie that's supposed to be interesting, fast-paced and suspenseful. It's boring, confusing and stupid. It would be one thing if Donner and company were working from failed material, but they're working from a best-selling novel. They just manage to suck enough to ruin it.
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