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Review: The Time Machine

More tragic than the uneven mix of jokes and schlock is the brevity of Jeremy Irons’s cameo role.

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The Time Machine
Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

“0 to 800,000 years in 1.2 seconds.” It’s okay if you don’t get it, as time travel films make about as much sense as their taglines. Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce, doing his best rail-thin John Nash impersonation) loses his girlfriend when a 19th-century Central Park mugger interrupts their woodsy engagement party. Alexander begins to channel his grief via the exponential equation, building an off-screen time machine so he can reclaim his ladylove. This latest cinematic take on H.G. Welles’s classic sci-fi tome from director Simon Welles (The Prince of Egypt) brims with B-movie cheekiness. That is, until Alexander makes his way into the future. Once he travels some 800,000 years forward, The Time Machine submits to New Age blather. The film’s Native American tomorrow is accompanied by tribal tunes so cornball they could have easily been lifted from a “Pure Moods” compilation. Alexander goes from lovelorn man of the past to preacherman of the future once a deformed, subterranean race goes hunting for the film’s peaceful tribesman. Alexander ventures underground for his brown sugar, butting heads with a ridiculous goth queen played by Jeremy Irons. More tragic than the uneven mix of jokes and schlock is the brevity of Irons’s cameo role, the stiff direction, not-cheezy-enough-to-be-brilliant effects, pointless morality and eye-rolling future jokes (in 2030, a teacher threatens a student with the good ol’ “I will resequence your DNA” bit).

Cast: Guy Pearce, Yancey Arias, Jeremy Irons, Philip Bosco, Phyllida Law, Mark Addy, Orlando Jones, Josh Stamberg, Samantha Mumba Director: Simon Welles Screenwriter: David Duncan Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures Running Time: 96 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2002 Buy: Video, Soundtrack, Book

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