Movie Review

The Time Traveler's Wife

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality.

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens, Family
Genre:
Sci-Fi, Romance, Drama, Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 48 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
August 14, 2009 (wide—2,700 theaters)
DVD: February 9, 2010
Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Featuring: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Ron Livingston, Brooklynn Proulx, Arliss Howard, Stephen Tobolowsky, Hailey McCann, Alex Ferris, Michelle Nolden, Jane McLean, Maggie Castle, Tatum McCann, Mya Rylyn Banks, Jean Yoon, James Lafazanos, Fiona Reid, Joan Barrett, Deborah Lynn, Christina Orjalo, Philip Craig, Bryanna Hartung, Debbi Burns, Jay Disney, Duane Murray, Brian Bisson, Alexis Beckley, Braeden Chow, Matt Birman, Greg McAleer, Gene Fojtik, Lisa Wolf, Shelby Howe, Donald Carrier, Hamish Robertson, Craig Snoyer
Director: Robert Schwentke
Producer: Industry Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Plan B Entertainment, Richard Brener, Dede Gardner, Justis Greene, Brad Pitt, Nick Wechsler, Michele Weiss
Distributor: New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” is a movie with a wonderful premise but mediocre execution. It is the story of a man who involuntarily “slips” back and forth through time. The absurdities of the time slipping need not be explained, and frankly would have been better off not being explained (a genetic disorder is apparently to blame… a “chronogene”). Nevertheless, his body is attracted to family members and loved ones, thus appearing at various times in history to his wife and family.

It is based on a book, and I suspect the book is far better than the movie. The problems with the film begin with poor pacing and an underdeveloped script. Were it not for Rachel McAdams, I would never have believed in the romance at all. She did a wonderful job convincing me that she was really in love with this man, but the script (as we have come to expect from Hollywood) has him having sex with her on their first date, followed by the inexplicable line “how did we meet?”

Now, it is not surprising that sex scenes are the only way that Hollywood seems to know to “show” love, but, in real life people, have sex without love all the time. Bollywood develops romance without sex by developing characters and by displaying acts of sacrifice and commitment. Hollywood just has an obligatory sex scene… but I digress.

The first half of the film seems to set the story, and the second half starts to become interesting, and yet I still felt incomplete. The potential for a great movie was there, but as it was filmed, it was a tedious plodding of time slipping and nude scenes with a poignant ending. As our hero slips in and out of time, he is supposed to look different ages, but only once did he really appear different to me. The rest of the time he looked the same age. It was as if the director or make-up artist didn’t take the time to really anticipate what the actor would look like in ten or twenty years. Only once did a smattering of gray hairs effect his appearance.

For the Christian viewer, the movie poses several problems. The first is nudity. For some reason, the idea of traveling through time nude has become a science fiction cliche. Exactly why this is has never been explained. Nevertheless, each time he travels through time he appears naked and must steal clothes. In one case, he steals women’s clothes and gets into a fight with a “homphobe.” His wife also shows her behind in one scene, as well.

With the addition of the foul language, which is fairly heavy, this movie borders on an R rating, though there is only one really violent scene. Politically, the movie is largely neutral, although there is a joke about marrying into a “bad family.” We are told, “her father is a Republican… AND a hunter!” Disgusted, they decide to be “tolerant,” but this foreshadows something that happens later in the film, which could easily be taken as a slap shot at hunters.

Now this is by no means a bad film… just an incomplete one. By that I mean that the movie feels incomplete to me. Rachel McAdams made me believe in the love story, but the script never did. By the time the subplot involving children develops, half the film has been wasted. The rather poignant ending redeems the film to some degree, and I am sure that the film will find its niche among some fans, but I cannot give it a thumbs up… especially for Christian audiences. Far better, and more believable love stories (I am not referring to the science fiction element, but the love story itself) have been made over the years. Wait until DVD for this one.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Negative—This movie is extremely depressing and unsettling. I thought that this movie would be an interesting romance/drama. Instead it was unpleasant, unhappy, and generally a waste of time. The premise of this movie is that a man, with a gene which causes him to time travel, comes in and out of the life of his true love. Unfortunately, the movie focuses on the miserable and unavoidable parts of the man’s life. It opens with the death of him mother, and closes with his own premature death. In between is a surprising amount of nudity, law breaking, and sexuality.

Part of the problem with the main character’s time traveling is that he cannot take his clothes with him. He arrives completely naked. Though this is only shown from the rear, it still occurs over and over throughout the movie. Female rear nudity is also shown, along with foreplay leading to premarital sex. The main character repeatedly steals and breaks into buildings to provide himself with clothes during his time travels, and he teaches his young daughter (also a time traveler) the skills needed to steal.

The movie seems to approve of the occurring sex and lawlessness, portraying it as necessary and right. All in all, the movie was a dark and deeply flawed drama that I could not recommend to any fellow Christian.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kira Williams, age 18 (USA)
Positive—I was surprised to find the negative comments here. I think it’s a beautiful love story, and very nicely handled. The one spot that did bother me, as mentioned here by others, is how she meets him for “his” first time, they go to his apartment and, yeah, in my mind --- she rapes him—(the reviewer here likes HER character???) ***SPOILER*** When he has the vasectomy—to avoid killing any more fetuses, because of his genetic disorder—she decides to get pregnant again anyway! All in all, though, I pack the hankies, it’s an emotional flick! (I still cry when he tells his mom that he met a girl) The nudity is barely noticeable—no “private parts” showing. It should be obvious that if one’s body travels the clothes get left behind. (Standard “scientific” principle!) It adds a bit of comic relief to a serious condition. And a realistic note, as well. I like the way storytellers make these things happen for a reason in peoples lives. His travels seem to take him to lessons he needs at that time. [If we pay attention, God gives us lessons as we need them, too.] I didn’t notice any big use of profanity. [Mostly “Aw, sh*t!” when he disappears at inopportune times, and MODIFIED use of the “F”-word] There’s a lot of positive life-lessons here. I like this movie a lot. I have not read the book, but from what I’ve heard, I think I’ll stick to the condensed movie version. It’s a good love story.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—~Nancy~, age 51 (USA)
Positive—This movie was amazing! I can’t believe how good it was! Although he travels without his clothes, there is only one moment where they show him nude, and it’s only from the back. There is no “sex” scene at all. They show them kissing and then the next seen is they wake up in bed together, and that’s it. Nothing more than that. He makes every decision based on what he believes is best for his wife, and puts her first. There are funny moments, and sad moments, but over all, amazing amazing movie! I completely suggest this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Torie, age 20 (USA)
Positive—I thought the move was what most people expected it to be. no it was not the best, but it was a good movie despite some minor flaws. I know that some of those flaws may be big to those of you in the “main land,” but in most places they are not a problem (ex: the time traveler appearing at home nude in front of family)—things like that are personal problems you need to get over, its not your job to be so judgmental.

…This next part mainly applies to Chris. I don’t know if you hunt at all, but things like getting shot/hit happen, and its a risk one takes while hunting or being in an area where hunting takes place, whether unintentional or not. chances are, it was not the knock you want to make it out to be. further more the director shouldn’t have to change the ending of the book to appease you, and the part he did change is good, so why do you feel the need to whine about it (for shame), and the “in the book, which nobody read or cared about” comment was down right rude. yah we get that you don’t like “chick flicks,” congratulations for making your point. be a man and stop being so sensitive… its immature and sad. this is a place to critique from a Christian stand point not a place for your personal judgment, prejudice, and or prudishness. critique in a way that’s helpful. -mahalo for your time God bless your day and future viewing experiences!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Sheyna, age 19 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I saw this movie with my girlfriend, and her family. Some of my Teen Sunday School class were also at the theatre. That is a very uncomfortable position when in the first ten minutes of the movie, I know every detail of both of the main characters' rear anatomy! The time travelers wife is a good movie showing the trials of the unexpected on a marriage. Without the Sci-Fi element, mental illness and cancer could have accomplished the same trials. The first half of the movie is confusing. I heard so many times: “What? How? When?” Later the movie hits issues. like living for each other, miscarriages, effects of one-party decisions. This could have been a Sci-Fi “Fireproof,” but instead you get a garbled mess which does actually turn into a beautiful tale of marriage and family survival!!

Positives: making a marriage survive takes priority; dealing with death without fear (although Church, Heaven, Hell, Salvation were never even hinted at!).

Negatives: here we go! first 10 minutes of the movies we have naked behinds; pre-marital sex on first date; having to hide liquor bottles from his date. That does improve dramatically. (it would have to!) Bad swearing, mostly when the time traveler is in trouble. no f-bombs. but my Savior’s name used in some very vulgar variations! s***; s.o.b; w.t.h. repeatedly. For adults with strong Faith, a good date movie. But I wanted to duct tape my Youth kids' eyes and ears shut! It embarrassed me. And that is a real shame. If death not being the end had worked with Faith, it could have the potential to be an excellent movie!! Oh, well.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Bruce, age 27 (USA)
Neutral—I have not yet seen the film version of Audrey Niffenegger’s spectacular novel of the same name—THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE. I was hoping that the film makers would do the book justice, but according to critic’s reviews, this may not be the case. It’s true that in the book, Henry DeTamble’s peculiar slipping in and out of time disorder defined by a gene called Chrono-Displacement for which Henry have no control over it. ***SPOILER ALERT*** He could literally be visiting the same event from multiple angles and times like the accident that took his mother’s life. ***SPOILER END***

And it is true that when he time traveled, it’s his body and not the clothes on him, therefore when he arrived at the other end, he would be naked and hungry. I found this to be both realistic and humorous because Henry had to be creative and find clothes before his next travel, usually back to the previous time but not always in the same place, like the one time he found himself in the library’s inescapable book cage. As for Clare Abshire, she had known Henry since the age of six by stumbling upon him in one of his bout and watched him vanished before her very eyes, she had come to love him and devoted patience with his time traveling of coming and going. Some point in time, she can even tell if it was the young Henry of yesterday or the older and future Henry. Her love tried to anchored him, and they tried to start a family, and when the first sign of joy, it is also means the end is near and Clare, whole-heartedly will wait for her man, even in her old age.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Mang Yang, age 37 (USA)
Neutral—Although the storyline seems exciting, I was left wanting. There were a few offensive scenes; premarital sex, nudity, some foul language, the fighting of the “homophobe” and the constant stealing of clothing. Most of these were quick and minimal compared to a vast majority of films. I agree that without the acting of Rachel McAdams, I may have missed the allure of a love story. You never really got that connection from Eric Bana. It seemed at first his actions were brought on more by duty or what he thought he should do with her. Though he confessed his devotion and did all that he could later on to make their relationship tranquil, it didn’t quite reach the potential. The mental picture of the embryo time traveling out of the mother was very upsetting as well. Overall, tolerable, but not one to see twice. I believe the movie could have been executed differently.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Jessica, age 30 (USA)
Neutral—I liked this film. I thought the idea of it was very neat—a man who is a time traveler, and the girl that he is in love with, who eventually becomes his wife. However, I really wish I would’ve read the book before seeing the movie. Some parts of this film are just confusing, and the only explanation as to why he travels through time is because it is a “genetic disorder.” I am sure that the book explains it better, as the novels usually do.

The nudity didn’t bother me, because he is a time traveler, and therefore, he cannot bring clothes with him when he travels through time. Just a side note, for those Christians that may be offended by this. This is not the first time that stories have had a character who travels naked. You may be surprised to know that in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy books, the main character ends up traveling through space naked. I didn’t care for some of the language, and I also didn’t care for the scenes of them together in bed. I’m not sure why Hollywood has to throw in a sex scene in a movie. I think many of us know that when a husband and wife love each other, love-making happens, but I personally am not okay with seeing it in a movie.

Overall, this is a very interesting movie. It’s obviously geared more towards ladies, as it is a chick flick that requires tissues.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Sarah, age 26 (USA)
Negative
Negative—My girlfriend and I are both Christians and are waiting until marriage before we consummate our relationship, which is biblical. She likes “chick flicks,” and she has seen two sci-fi movies with me thus far this summer so I promised I would go see this with her. As a Christian and an experienced moviegoer, I had a few problems with this film.

* Premarital sex. Self explanatory.
* The music is nicely done, but the same few bars play throughout the entire movie over and over again. It gets a little annoying.

* Unnecessary nudity. Did anyone even consider that it might be just a “little weird” or even strange to have a grown man suddenly appear naked in front of a little girl? Technically, no, he didn’t appear naked in front of her, he was always hidden in the forest, and she left clothes for him, but still??? There were times where he appeared curled up naked on the floor of their house in front of the whole family, including his daughter. The naked-time-travel-plot-device thing worked with Kyle Reese in “Terminator” for a specific reason, but it doesn’t apply here. duh.

* Over the top political bias. As Christians we are called to enter through the narrow gate, and that means putting Jesus first in our lives, not political parties. However… It’s pretty clear from the storyline that this director thinks that all Republicans are: homophobes, unenlightened, evil hunters of animals (there is an unmistakable reference at the end of the film to the whole Dick Cheney hunting incident), it’s obvious Harry’s death at the hand of his Republican-father-in-law hunter was a take on this, which I found to be completely inappropriate and lacked any taste. Anybody who didn’t catch this sick joke is clearly not paying attention.

* Missed plot device opportunity! Near the end of the film there is a scene where Harry’s daughter is with him and she is trying to teach him that He can learn to stop time traveling by singing. But the director fails to use this plot device in the last scene of the movie.

***SPOILER ALERT*** He time travels past his death to visit them one last time in the field, but he never learns how to make it work like his daughter can. This was just plain incompetence on the part of the director. Even if the novel ends the same way, there are hundreds of successful movies where the director changed the storyline to create a happy ending. Take “The Natural” for instance: In the book, which nobody read or cared about, Roy Hobbs took the money and strikes out in his final at-bat. But no one knows this because in the movie He does the right thing and “does not” take the bribe and plays his final at-bat correctly, hitting the home run.
***END SPOILER***
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Chris, age 37 (USA)
Comments from young people

none