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Starring Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerald Butler; David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Michael Sheen, Lambert Wilson, Marton Csokas and Billy Connelly
Screenplay by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton
Directed by Richard Donner

IN SHORT: Been there. Done that. [Rated PG-13 for Intense Battle Sequences & Brief Language. 110 minutes]

As always we make no comparison to Source Material, because you shouldn't have to read the novel to understand the movie. You can follow Timeline, at its root a story of a son's trip back through time to rescue his father without such a fallback. The bigger problem will turn out to be: will you really give a hoot about characters in a story which doesn't quite merit the attention commanded by any of original author Michael Crichton's TV work? Our audience, the men at least, walked out mumbling four letter equivalents of terrible. Then again, us guys will always come down harder on anything SF because that's in our makeup. The love story that makes up a subplot of Timeline wasn't enough to get the few females in our group enthused either.

We begin in the village of Castlegard in France, the site of a British siege in the 14th century and a surprising and still unexplained victory by the French. Heading a team of archeologists and students is the revered Professor E. A. Johnston (Billy Connelly), assisted by his son Chris (Paul Walker). Financing the project is the International Technology Corporation, an evil conglomerate if ever there was one bubbling in the back of the mind of a good novelist. With the elder Johnston back in the States, his son uncovers a long lost tunnel which may hold the key to all unanswered questions. The bigger questions raised, as the site is explored is, where did the modern glasses found in the tunnel come from and what's all this about a "Help Me" note, in dad's handwriting and dated April 2, 1357, found nearby.

It seems the ITC Corporation, headed by the assumedly evil Robert Doniger (David Thewlis) had been working on a method to fax material in three dimensions -- think of it like Star Trek's transporter -- with stations built at their home base in New Mexico and in New York. When they pushed the button, the lucky transportee wound up in 14th century France. Chris takes the dig team -- assistant professor Andre Marek (Gerald Butler) and students Kate Ericson (Frances O'Connor), Stern (Ethan Embry) and François (Rossif Sutherland) -- back on a rescue mission and encounters all the fun royalty of those days, the lovely Lady Claire (Anna Friel), the ruling English Lord Oliver (Michael Sheen), his French enemy Lord Arnaut (Lambert Wilson) and security enforcer De Ker (Marton Csokas).

OK, all together now: what would put this team in Ultimate Jeopardy? That's right, If something happened to the transport machine. Now, since it was already revealed in the set up, what's the problem with that scenario? There's another machine in New York!!! Never mentioned again. Never explained why it can't do a rescue. Lights out, shut the door. We expect better of a Crichton story and hope the fault lies in the adaptation. Then again, this is such an average story that maybe Mr. Crichton had an off day.

Ignoring that slip, what've we got? Uh, we've got something happening to the transport machine and all the scientist in New Mexico going too brain dead to pick up a phone to the New York office. Yeah, yeah, there's no story if they do but the play of "got to get the transport working before a deadline traps everyone back in the past" against a plot by which one of the bad guys in the past knows way too much about the small medallions hanging around our time traveler's necks -- even the brain dead in our viewing audience didn't have to think much about that one -- leaves very little to compel viewing to this story.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Timeline, he would have paid . . .


Wait for a small screen viewing. Crichton writes for television, too. Timeline isn't near as good as e.r.

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